Pretty Woman (1990)

Director: Garry Marshall Cast: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Jason Alexander, Laura San Giacomo, Ralph Bellamy

After a chance meeting when asking for directions, wealthy businessman Edward hires a prostitute, Vivian, for a week to attend events with him as his plus one. This being a Hollywood movie, they end up falling in love- but will it ever be able to work out between them?!

The answer to the above question is, of course, yes. Despite my cynicism though, Pretty Woman is an enjoyable and feel-good movie with a reliable formula to win over audiences. It’s definitely more rom than com and I could have done with a few more funny moments to improve it, but it’s not sickeningly romantic. Having a prostitute as the protagonist brings a different twist to the classic boy meets girl setup, and it’s refreshing to see her unashamedly flaunting her sexuality rather than the usual timid high-school nerd chasing the handsome sports star scenario. Plus, Vivian would have ended up fine on her own in the end if her and Edward hadn’t got together- she didn’t necessarily need the man to give the story a happy ending nor does she have to change herself to win him over (apart from buying some new clothes). Strong independent woman, amirite? Edward is also an appealing male protagonist: although he’s a successful businessman it’s no secret that he’s lonely and ultimately unfulfilled in his current lifestyle. It’s very easy to root for them as a couple.

Although the storyline is primarily about a man who hires a prostitute for a week it’s mostly a family friendly movie, and while it’s rated a 15 it would probably be suitable for kids slightly younger. In short, I would have no qualms with watching this with my parents so it can’t be that scandalous.

Easy plot, non-stressful storyline, classic 90s fashion, likeable characters- I’m going to hate myself for using this expression but it’s ideal for a “girls night in” (urgh). Plus there’s nothing like getting your own back on someone by buying a sassy new outfit- watch it just for the satisfaction of that classic shopping scene.

3.5 stars

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Director: Matthew Vaughn Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal

In the follow-up to everyone’s surprise favourite film of 2014, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eggsy is now a fully-fledged agent but is forced to head to the US after the Kingsman headquarters are destroyed. Once in Kentucky, he teams up with agents from Kingsman’s American counterpart Statesman to bring down an eccentric drugs kingpin.

I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people were pleasantly surprised about how much they enjoyed the first Kingsman. And while sequels often require lowered expectations, I found The Golden Circle to be a worthy second round. One of my favourite features of the first movie was the way they filmed the action sequences, swapping between fast and slow-motion, close-ups and zooming in and out, and so I was pleased that they’d put a few more sequences like that into  this one- although I think any more would have been overkill and it would have lost its effect. Overall it makes the action look very cool and slick, and it’s fun to see the action in detail rather than just one long shot of the scene.

I think this film is funnier than the first, which means I did enjoy it but I found that more of the focus was on the comedy than the plot. The main villain storyline is good, but I didn’t find it to be the main focus of the film. Rather, the plot was more of mechanism to get in the jokes and action sequences. For example on the surface there’s no real reason why Elton John would be in this film, as plot-wise if he wasn’t in it it wouldn’t really have made a difference, but somehow it works and actually he has some really funny moments. I did well up a little when Eggsy and Harry reunited though (slight spoiler but not really as he’s in the trailer- yes, Colin Firth is not dead) and there was quite a focus on the characters and their relationships, which is something I liked about the first film.

As with the first movie, it’s definitely for adults (a guilty-pleasure James Bond, if you will) so not family viewing, but a great shout for an easy-to-watch light-hearted action movie. I would definitely watch it again, and at the end they set it up for a third movie in the franchise so I’m absolutely looking forward to that.

3 stars

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Director: Amy Heckerling Cast: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Brain Backer, Robert Romanus, Phoebe Cates (and also Nicholas Cage for all of 5 seconds)

We follow the escapades of a group of high school students over the course of a year, including romance, jobs, studies and general teenagery-ness.

Fast Times is a bit of a cult classic, lesser known than some of the other 1980s high school student flicks, but feels like one of the more authentic or realistic ones. Indeed, the story is based on the experiences of film-maker Cameron Crowe, who spent a year undercover as a high school student and wrote a book on his experiences. The events feel a lot more like stuff that would actually happen to regular teenagers, rather than far-fetched hijinks, and I think it definitely adds to the enjoyability of the film if you can look back and reminisce on some of your own high school experiences.

Not all the stories are totally connected and the links between the characters or individual plots can be a bit tenuous, so from a standard film-viewing perspective it might seem a little unstructured or random. However, this also adds to the realism, so we can mostly forgive that. I would also warn that not all the scenes would probably get past a film classification board today, so might be a little odd for modern audiences (mainly the underage sex). It’s not one I’d watch with my parents…

This is definitely a must-see for 80s fans, especially as it’s up there in the genre of “golden-age” classics such as The Breakfast ClubBack to the Future or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s certainly not appropriate for younger audiences (I think it’s rated 18 here in the UK), but is a good dose of nostalgia for adults.

3 stars

Jingle All The Way (1996)

jingle-all-the-way

Director: Brian Levant Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Jake Lloyd

A father wrapped up in his work forgets to buy his son the one gift he wants for Christmas, leaving him only Christmas Eve to track it down. However, it turns out everywhere is out of stock and he’s not the only one looking for a last minute gift.

Another year, another addition to my seasonal Christmas Crackers series, this time featuring the thrilling combination of the Terminator and young Anakin Skywalker. Let’s just say T + AS does not equal GA (good acting). Having said that, literally no film ever made can be worse than The Santa Clause, last year’s Christmas horror, so it’s not all bad.

First things first, before whiney Jake Lloyd desecrated the Star Wars universe with his incessant moaning, his whinging actually makes him an ideal casting choice for this role- the classic demanding child growing up in a world of consumerism who only wants material objects to make him happy. There must be a Christmas lesson for him to learn in there somewhere! And there is. I don’t think it would be classed as a spoiler to say that by the end of the film both father and son learn that Christmas isn’t all about the presents, but about family.

Poor acting aside, I did laugh a few times in this film. It’s quite slapstick which produces a few amusing moments, plus I did laugh at the (unintentional) dry delivery from Arnie. It’s not a Christmas classic, but I didn’t hate it and if it was on telly on a free Saturday afternoon next December, I would probably watch it again.

This film gets no points for things like originality, acting or cinematography but it’s mindless and inoffensive, plus it’s Christmas and at this time year people will watch anything. Worth a go if you’ve already watched all the classic seasonal hits and need something else.

2 stars