Classic Intel: Finding Nemo - Blu-ray Review

'Everything involving the "Tank Gang" who befriend Nemo is pure gold, littered with sharply realised cinematic homages, and offering Gill (a flawless Willem Dafoe) as one of Pixar's all-time great characters'.

As with any Pixar release, it feels more worthwhile to assess Finding Nemo against the studio's own back catalogue than against animated cinema in general. In the thirteen years since its release in 2003, Pixar's fifth feature has become as beloved by many as Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and other jewels in Pixar's crown. Even so, there are undoubtedly a handful of reasons why Finding Nemo remains excellent, but not perfect.

The first is the plot, which is never quite as strong as that seen in any of Pixar's very best releases. Even A Bug's Life, the studio's sophomore effort largely relegated to being viewed as one of their lesser films, manages to utilise its Seven Samurai-inspired narrative to the full throughout in a way that Finding Nemo can't manage.

After a remarkably rapid set-up which takes in everything from tragedy to family drama to fast-paced action all in the first twenty minutes, the film then settles into a largely episodic structure in a way that Pixar's output prior to this had largely avoided. Whilst consistently enjoyable, the simplistic delivery of the story does mean that Andrew Stanton's lead directorial debut lacks something of the narrative depth achieved in earlier films from the studio.

The other key issue is in the central pairing of Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who also suffer in comparison to earlier Pixar duos. The dynamic between the two is never effortless in the same way as Woody and Buzz or Mike and Sulley. Marlin in particular as protagonist is quite hard work thanks to his acutely tragic arc making his outlook throughout the film relentlessly pessimistic, at times exhaustingly so. Dory meanwhile comes dangerously close at times to becoming a one-joke character, saved by a few key scenes of genuine emotion which emerge as some of the film's very best.

Having mentioned Marlin's negativity, it's perhaps ironic that this review has focused almost entirely on Finding Nemo's faults when there are so many aspects of the film to praise. The animation is sumptuous, resolutely standing up to scrutiny over a decade after release. The humour too is pitched and executed exceptionally well. In particular, everything involving the "Tank Gang" who befriend Nemo (Alexander Gould) is pure gold, littered with sharply realised cinematic homages, and offering Gill (a flawless Willem Dafoe) as one of Pixar's all-time great characters.

Such successes shouldn't go without saying when most other film studios, both animation and live action, struggle to achieve them as consistently as Pixar do. But with the aesthetic and comedic brilliance we've come to expect from the studio evident throughout much of Finding Nemo, it's ultimately the relative shortcomings which prevent the film from joining the absolute cream of Pixar's crop.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

Bridge Of Spies - Online Review

'Spielberg has become, willingly or unwillingly, a champion purveyor of the patriotic picture.'

When all is said and done on Steven Spielberg's career, you rather think that this current period, starting with 2008's Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, will be looked back upon with a level of antipathy. Yes, you can find good things to say about many of the films in this period. But you do have to find them. There hasn't quite been a Woody Allen swing from the 'early funny ones', but there has been a marked change in the magic Spielberg deals in. The best Spielberg film of the last ten years, Super 8, wasn't directed by him and even less showy films like Jeff Nichols' Mud seem to capture the family tensions Spielberg used to deal in better than he has done recently. Consider this too: if we're some way away from seeing something like E.T., then we're so far from a return to the heightened familial tensions of Jaws, Close Encounters or Schindler's List that you suspect we may never see their like again.

Into that situation comes Bridge Of Spies, which is an interesting film in many ways, but is once again a film in which you have to look - really look, sometimes - for Spielberg's touch; not light, but effective.

The topic, first of all, hardly feels zeitgeist, but nonetheless it's good to see the director in pursuit of something that's not child-centric, or obviously family pitched. James Donovan (Tom Hanks), a US lawyer, is sucked into cold war intrigue when he is asked to defend a Soviet spy and then to facilitate a spy swap; the traitor, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) for US pilot Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), currently being held in Russia.

Spielberg finds a lot of connection to his repeated motif of locating everything within a family by developing Donovan not as the sort of mystical man at the bar who performs linguistic feats of client preservation, but as a home-focused father, with wife and kids now in the firing line. The case and the family are linked not only through Donovan but (in a bit of scripting perhaps not entirely reliant on historical accuracy) through a brewing relationship between Donovan's young assistant and his daughter; a Spielberg-esque addition, or refocusing effort, if ever there was one.

If Bridge Of Spies does reside in Spielberg's familial - and familiar - interests, then it also lies in a less attractive repeated motif of recent years that is less mentioned and less celebrated. Spielberg has become, willingly or unwillingly, a champion purveyor of the patriotic picture.

This has been happening for quite some time. Often the films are good enough to hide it (War Of The Worlds), but increasingly the director's ''Murica!' championing comes to the fore. Lincoln was a film full of it and the politics of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull would be worth examining if only the film warranted it. Bridge Of Spies allows Spielberg and anyone else so inclined to spend a couple of hours shaking their fists and exclaiming 'damned Ruskies'. Sure, there are efforts made to paint superiors on both sides as the problem. In Rylance's hands, for example, Abel is extremely humanised, if still held sway to the fates of the film (as his repeated line of 'would it help?' so adroitly highlights). But that is pretty much it as far as attempts to usurp the nationalist status quo goes. This is another film by Spielberg (and look, he isn't the only one), where the US broadly gets to be not only the good guy, but the great guy. The director's conflicts have never been as clear cut as here, odd given that, after all, he has a plot which is meant to muddy the waters by placing an American lawyer in defence of a Russian spy.

As in Lincoln Spielberg's change appears to be a movement to a system of grandstanding, from his formative residence in spectacle.




Bridge Of Spies was streaming on Blinkbox.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

The BFG (2016) - Cinema Review

'There are echoes of the likes of Harry Potter and Spielberg's own Hook within the film's world... London becomes a quirky bundle of anachronisms that work pleasingly well together'.

If Steven Spielberg's adaptation of The BFG proves anything, it's that Roald Dahl's story of giants - both big and friendly, and even bigger and not so friendly - is one of his most weakly plotted tales. It's a problem the 1989 Cosgrove Hall animation couldn't overcome, and one that Spielberg's film falls foul of too. There's simply too much time in the middle act where remarkably little happens to move the story on, a problem which is amplified through transferring the tale to the big screen.

To be fair, Melissa Mathison's script does try to remedy this, most notably through adding a tragic backstory for the BFG (Mark Rylance) where, in a change from Dahl's novel, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) isn't the first child he's ever brought back to Giant Country. It's a bold addition which works as far as it's allowed to, but it's also never developed enough by either Mathison or Spielberg to make a genuine impact.

The director has his greatest success elsewhere in bringing the settings and characters of the novel to life. There are echoes of the likes of Harry Potter and Spielberg's own Hook within the film's world: Giant Country has a well-realised fairytale feel, littered with stolen artefacts of the human world from across the centuries, whilst London becomes a quirky bundle of anachronisms that work pleasingly well together.

The BFG's characters are the true strength of Dahl's novel, a fact which translates satisfyingly to Spielberg's film. Rylance does well in the title role, delivering a surprisingly sombre version of the BFG thanks to some of the novel's more playful dialogue not making it into Mathison's script, but crafting the character into a charming creation through a softly genuine performance brought to life through impressive CGI. The BFG's relationship with Sophie feels a little disjointed at first, but Rylance and Barnhill achieve a convincing chemistry between the two by the middle act.

Much of the humour comes from the other giants, who are less monstrous than in previous incarnations and more like colossal infantile bullies, tormenting the BFG for their sadistic pleasure one minute and expecting him to nurse their cuts and bruises the next. Only Jermaine Clement's Fleshlumpeater is expanded beyond a single dimension, however, with the remaining eight man-eating giants never really feeling distinct from one another and largely blending into one.

Even if the story overall proves to be the film's major drawback, there are nonetheless scenes in isolation which stand out. The BFG and Sophie's journey to Dream Country is pleasingly magical, offering some real invention if occasionally feeling a little too Hogwarts in flavour. By far the standout sequence, however, is when the orphan girl and her colossal companion join the Queen (Penelope Wilton) at Buckingham Palace for breakfast. It's a wonderful combination of impressive effects, game performances and genuinely funny slapstick. Whizzpopping may not be high comedy, but I challenge you not to crack a broad smile and let out at least a few giggles at the family-friendly fart jokes The BFG has to offer.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

Jason Bourne - Cinema Review

'The compelling story that began in Identity satisfyingly concluded in Ultimatum; the story here meanwhile struggles throughout to convince that it even needs to be told'.

Whilst the titles of all the previous Bourne films were somewhat general in their meaning, there is no reason at all for Jason Bourne to be called Jason Bourne other than the fact that Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is in it. The marketing team would no doubt argue that that's reason enough when Bourne wasn't in the last film, but it's much more likely that nobody could actually think of a better name to call this fifth installment, marking as it does the point where the franchise finally ventures into generic territory.

The compelling story that began in Identity satisfyingly concluded in Ultimatum; the story here meanwhile struggles throughout to convince that it even needs to be told. The flashbacks and missing memories are there because that's what the franchise does by this point, and whilst they by their very nature reveal new events in Bourne's past, these revelations add too little to who he is as a character and to the franchise mythos as a whole to feel worthwhile.

Whilst the story may not be up to scratch compared to the original trilogy, even struggling to match the ideas within the inferior Legacy, there are still enough satisfying moments throughout to let you know that Paul Greengrass has returned to direct. An early sequence in Athens culminating in a motorcycle chase through streets filled with violent protesters is a highlight; a later tense London-based operation is one of Greengrass' very best accomplishments out of all three of his entries into the franchise. The director also shows on at least one occasion that he's still not afraid to make some gutsy decisions with his characters, and the film is better for it.

In contrast, the Las Vegas set final act marks the point at which Greengrass takes the series further from its roots than ever before. It's not that the finale isn't entertaining, but compared to the relatively understated pleasures of the earlier films' set pieces this feels ostentatious for ostentation's sake - at times even like something out of a different franchise altogether.

Jason Bourne therefore ends up as a mixed bag, but a consistently enjoyable one. With reliable established names Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent Cassel alongside fresh talents Alicia Vikander and Riz Ahmed joining the returning Damon and Julia Stiles, the most frustrating factor within the film is the sense that it should have been much better than it is. Even with a better script and story, Greengrass' third Bourne film may not have matched up to Ultimatum, still his best, but it almost certainly would have sat more comfortably alongside it.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

Bloodline: Season Two - Online Review

SPOILER WARNING: The below article contains reference to events during Bloodline Season One and Season Two, which you may wish to avoid if you have not yet seen either or both seasons of the show.

'in the first season John was, as the voiceover told us, part of a good family who had 'done a bad thing'. But as season two progresses, John becomes more villain than hero'

Bloodline season two follows a very similar methodology to Bloodline season one. For the first half of the season, the show is all about slow build up. Character allegiances and anxieties are carefully tweaked and played with, as we work our way towards the final two episodes.

The diversion from season one with that approach is that Bloodline is now a series with momentum, which it cannot afford to just put on pause. By the final episodes yes, significant things have happened, but the time it takes to get us there often feels unnecesarily extended, overly pedestrian; a little too happy with stasis.

The things that happen however, to dwell on Bloodline's final two episodes, do show that showrunners Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler and Daniel Zelman can pull satisfaction out of their hat, as shown in season one. During this second run, shortened from thirteen to ten episodes, the writers successfully show the pressure piling on Meg (Linda Cardellini) and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) as we advance through, culminating in what appears to be Meg revealing the family secret to Sally (Sissy Spacek) and Kevin killing Marco (Enrique Murciano). Meg has been pulled from her attempted New York escape back to the Keys and put in charge of yet more secrets through running John's (Kyle Chandler) chase of the sheriff's position. Kevin has had to fight addiction, face up to becoming a father and lose the boatyard to the shadowy Roy Gilbert (Beau Bridges). Their conclusions might be sudden and dramatic, but they are well written and setup and, given everything we see in the season, completely believable.

The writing around John also continues to work, calling to mind that most classic of cinematic corruption and 'fall' stories; that of Michael Corleone. In the first season John was, as the voiceover told us, part of a good family who had 'done a bad thing'. But as season two progresses, John becomes more villain than hero, more driver of bad events rather than someone who bad events happen to. His finale too is entirely believable. Diana (Jacinda Barrett, who continues to be one of the best performers here) has all but turned her back, Meg and Kevin are no longer confidants; John is going to drive. Where your sympathies lie is open to interpretation, but for me I was starting to buy the other siblings arguments. It was difficult to look at John at this point as anything other than someone who had helped in Kevin's downfall and could now conceivably benefit from it, depending on how far Meg goes with her reveals.

The problem with all of the above is that it should have happened much sooner. The final two episodes do take the characters on to new precipices, but those episodes leave behind a season that struggled to generate momentum up to that point and relied far too much on getting us interested in new plot threads that didn't always work. Andrea Riseborough as Danny's (Ben Mendelsohn) ex-girlfriend is good and nearly unrecognisable, but she's stuck in a sub plot to do with Eric (Jamie McShane), Danny's son Nolan (Owen Teague) and hoodlum Ozzy (John Leguizamo). Hardly any of it seems to matter. Nolan and Evangeline (Riseborough) have an arc that, like the rest of the series, eventually works, but it lacks real impact on John, Kevin and Meg and Ozzy as the antagonist of the piece, beyond the secrets the Rayburns hold is weak. Marco takes on that role much more during the final five episodes, supported by Aguirre (David Zayas), but even that plays second fiddle to watching the Rayburn's internal struggles. If anything, the series fails to get the balance right between moving those struggles forwards and introducing us to these supplementary elements. I could watch more of Evangeline and Nolan, especially now they seem part of the family, but  not at the expense of the main plot and not when Aguirre and Ozzy add nothing at all.

Which leaves us in a position come the final episodes where the core characters have been pushed to their limits, satisfyingly hit them, but moved on hardly at all. The balance is off. If Bloodline wants to survive much longer as a series it has to find a way to make its opening and mid-seasons as compelling as its finales.




Bloodline was streaming on Netflix.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Game Of Thrones: Season Six - TV Review

SPOILER WARNING: The below article contains spoilers for Game Of Thrones: Season Six, which you may wish to avoid if you have not seen this season of the show.

'Season six is the moment the showrunners decided to let loose the satisfying plot payoffs, the heroic moments, the genuinely tear-jerking pathos.'

Game Of Thrones can be a frustrating beast. Though it has the mythos nailed down, and the characters, it is not always a show that can bring its various moving parts to operate in a satisfying harmony. Unlike the show's metronomic titles, this has often been a series that does not go completely as clockwork, as often as it should.

But season six is different. Season six is the moment the showrunners decided to let loose the satisfying plot payoffs, the heroic moments, the genuinely tear-jerking pathos. Characters stuck in the same arcs finally regained agency and did something. Characters with potential realised it. Characters we wanted to cheer for gave us reason to do so.

It didn't quite start off like that however, with the reveal about whether Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) would live or stay dead stretched out over the first two episodes. During those episodes it is difficult to think of anything not taking place in Castle Black as anything other than filler. Terry Pratchett used to say that his best characters (Vimes, Death, The Orangutan (ook)) feature sparsely because otherwise they would take over his world. If there's a criticism to be levelled at Game Of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss it is that they have occasionally allowed their ensemble fantasy drama to become The Jon Snow Show, without ever really giving us due plotting reason as to why.

In season six you begin to get that reason and the way in which you get it - through flashbacks glimpsed by Bran's (Isaac Hempstead Wright) visions - is as important as what is revealed. Bran, another of the Game's characters often stuck on the periphery, suddenly becomes oh so important. The reveals he comes across matter to him, to us and to the wider world of Westeros, where before they have happened in cloistered microcosm.

The pattern of Bran is repeated elsewhere. Sansa's (Sophie Turner) battle with Ramsey (Iwan Rheon) and uneasy alliance (if you can call it that) with Baelish (Aidan Gillen) surrounds the season's key moment. Arya's (Maisie Williams) inertia in the house of the many faced God finally ends and bear's fruit. Cersei's (Lena Headey) scheming comes to matter more than just impacting Kings Landing politics; there's direct cause and effect of her continued willingness to do the unthinkable. Even the most isolated characters - Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and those inhabiting The Iron Islands - get things to do that matter beyond their immediate sphere of influence.

Of the chips that are cashed in by the end of the season it is difficult to think of one that does not work. The reveal about Hodor (Kristian Nairn) is the most satisfying and emotional. So called 'mystery boxes' (read: good plotting) are easy to setup but difficult to payoff. This does both with shiver-inducing aplomb. The following episode heralds the return of an oft-mentioned character, in satisfying comic book hero-esque style. The demise of several villains during the wiping out of many cast members in the final episode gives equal levels of satisfaction.

But this is, now, finally and justifiably so, the Jon Snow Show. The season revolves initially around whether he is alive and eventually around whether he can succeed. In a rare note of Thrones optimism (though the creators do get playful in season six; Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) is a constant highlight) we are left with the feeling that the Starks have the North again and can go much further than that. S6E9, Battle Of The Bastards, directed superbly by Miguel Sapochnik, gives us Stark tragedy and success in a single episode and doesn't only settle for that. The scenes where Jon looks as though he will asphyxiate feature incredible, and incredibly subtle camerawork, even if the conclusion of the episode is a little similar to several Thrones 'rescues' we have seen before.

The problems season six has though are minor, particularly given how much it is willing to conclude and how much it manages to setup. By the finale, Arya and Daenerys are in (or very close to) Westeros. Cersei (Lena Headey) appears to have wiped out most of her immediate enemies, but is there a very attractive division with Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) hinted at? It feels as though the conclusion of the Thrones labyrinth is approaching. In previous seasons I've been more than ready for it. At the end of season six, I could have watched TV of this quality for a lot longer.





By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Classic Intel: The Mist (Black & White Version) - Blu-ray Review

'The supermarket in which the survivors are trapped becomes an extreme microcosm of modern society, a fundamental factor within the story of which Darabont never loses sight'.

Personally introducing the black and white version of The Mist on the film's Blu-ray release, writer and director Frank Darabont describes the colourless edition as being the closest we're likely to get to a director's cut of the film. Whilst clearly a fan of both, Darabont aligns the colour version to 1970s horror whilst seeing the black and white version as aesthetically linked to the monster movies of the 1960s, a distinction which ultimately helps to make sense of why for the director and many others (myself included) the latter has the edge over the former.

Viewing the film in black and white superbly brings out the retro horror qualities of the creatures that emerge from the titular cloud enveloping the town of Bridgton. Aside from an early scene involving some tentacles which come across too obviously as CGI creations, the rest of The Mist's monsters are drawn straight from the playbook of Ray Harryhausen, something which the monochrome aesthetic enhances brilliantly. Scenes such as a tense mission by a group of survivors to a pharmacy overrun by the supernatural beasts are improved through Darabont's artistic use of light and dark, which comes across all the more effectively in black and white.

Whilst there are arguments for both versions being superior, whether you prefer to watch The Mist with or without colour is ultimately a personal preference. No matter which you choose, what makes the film a success is its exploration of humanity, just as Stephen King's original novella did. The supermarket in which the survivors are trapped becomes an extreme microcosm of modern society, a fundamental factor within the story of which Darabont never loses sight through his consistently sharp screenplay and direction. The way in which religious zealot Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) gradually manoeuvres herself into a position of power within the group through fear and manipulation has perhaps never felt more relevant than it does today.

With so many characters brought into play, it's perhaps inevitable that a few end up feeling underdeveloped. The romance between checkout girl Sally (Alex Davalos) and soldier Wayne (Sam Witwer) in particular feels brief to the point where it's hard to know why Darabont included it at all. The film's climax - different from that in King's story, but which the author condoned - is an element that divides opinion, but which deserves to be experienced without any prior knowledge. The ending is also another reason to experience the black and white version of The Mist, as it's arguably the moment where the lack of colour enhances the mood of Darabont's film most poignantly.





By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.