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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In which a casting agent displays an alarming talent for predicting the future
A Partially Educated Review

What fascinates me with Starter For 10 is how within the space of a couple of years, pretty much all of it's (at the time) up-and-coming cast were well on their way to breaking out in a huge way. When Alice Eve and Dominic Cooper are your least established actors, you know that you've done something right. Let's be honest, the film's...
Published 17 months ago by James Boothman

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light Entertainment
If you read the book like me, you will only notice a loose following of the story line, in my mind many of the funniest moments of the book have been missed out of this film. The film in it's own right isn't bad and has a few funny moments, however, I can't help feeling if they had extended it from 90minutes then it could have been a whole of a lot better. If you watch...
Published on 12 Jun. 2008 by C. Powell


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In which a casting agent displays an alarming talent for predicting the future, 1 Dec. 2013
This review is from: Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
A Partially Educated Review

What fascinates me with Starter For 10 is how within the space of a couple of years, pretty much all of it's (at the time) up-and-coming cast were well on their way to breaking out in a huge way. When Alice Eve and Dominic Cooper are your least established actors, you know that you've done something right. Let's be honest, the film's sub-10 million budget would very likely be unable to achieve this cast today unless they felt like being charitable.

Set in 1985, the film follows Brian Jackson, a walking hive of general knowledge. Starting his studies of English Literature at Bristol University, it's not long before Brian enrols on the University Challenge team, led by Patrick Walsh and also featuring the instant object of Brian's desire, Alice Harbinson. Elsewhere, Brian also develops a friendship with Rebecca "different protest every week" Epstein, whilst also coming to terms with his mother's new relationship with local ice-cream man Des, following the death of Brian's father.

After the obligatory character intro montage, we go straight to University with a Vicars and Tarts party in which the attendance is suitably sparse. Note to future British students: if you're expecting the parties to be like American films, stop deluding yourself. It's not the perfect set-up to be honest, every decent representation of University lifestyle is marred by stereotypes. The hippy guy claiming that toilet paper is harmful comes off as someone who you would never actually meet at a University. I'm happy to accept that I was at University 20 years after the time this film is set, but I still don't believe it. Likewise, Epstein's group of protesters stop short of literal bra-burning, but do pretty much everything else that you would expect from every movie protest group in the history of ever.

McAvoy's great though. Adopting the awkward "out of place Brit" template, he manages to avoid becoming Hugh Grant through the simple fact that he's capable of showing more than one emotion. He doesn't seek out the laughs, but lets the story and script produce them while he humanises the character, knowing that the best laughs are pulled from human flaws, rather than farcical ones. Elsewhere, he lets the more emotional side of the character show itself in equally natural ways. When he remembers his late father, he elicits genuine sympathies from you, showing a subtlety in his reflective sadness, rather than despaired histrionics. It isn't going to reduce you to tears, nor should it have tried to, but it will resonate with anyone capable of human emotion.

Scenes like this are helped by a brilliant script that never forgets that it's primary purpose is to amuse. Remaining consistently funny throughout, it's able to blend the more emotional or serious moments in a way that flows, rather than jerks, between styles. Keeping these moments to a minimum also helps in ensuring that they don't become too wearing and means that it strays from the Nicholas Sparks-esque manipulative side that writer David Nicholls demonstrated in his script for One Day.*

Elsewhere in the cast, everyone does their job to at least a decent standard. The stand-out though is Rebecca Hall. While the protest scenes have the clichés, Hall is given plenty of time to flesh out the character away from the scenes. Where the protester is often played for comedy value, Rebecca is there to be liked. It's obvious from the start that she's supposed to be the true object of Brian's desires, but it's not because the script can't help itself from telegraphing it at every point it gets. It's because Hall's performance makes you like her far more than Alice and makes you want her to be happy. Elsewhere, Cumberbatch brings out the pomposity and arrogance of Patrick well, but he's overdoing it ever so slightly and isn't given much of a chance to do anything else.

There's a couple of elephants in the room though and they go by the names of Tate and Corden. Don't be put off by their names in the cast list. I actually don't mind James Corden, but if you really can't stand him, don't worry, he's barely in it. As for Tate, I have to give her props. Loud, irritating and with a voice that's like sticking a screwdriver in your ears, Tate tones down her less likeable qualities and comes out with some of her best work. With only an 11-year age gap, she's blatantly far too young to be playing McAvoy's mother, but embodies all the motherly qualities necessary for that to become unimportant. Thankfully, her laugh only makes one appearance and does so in a scene that's otherwise funny. As for the handling of her new relationship, it's is executed pitch-perfect and that's entirely down to her ability to show her guiltless affection for Des, whilst retaining the love for her late husband.

Special mention must also go to the soundtrack. With Kate Bush, Buzzcocks, The Smiths, The Cure and many others, it's a veritable pantheon of British greats that feels and sounds like a student soundtrack from the 1980s. It doesn't matter that you've heard all of them before. It matters that it suits the film and it does that admirably. Although, Pictures Of You in 1985? I think not.

It's a shame then that box office results were hardly staggering. With a general release date that fell a couple of months before The Last King Of Scotland's, it would have perhaps fared better had it come after the growing interest in McAvoy that Last King provided. That wasn't the case and the box office didn't even break the 2 million mark globally (let alone an embarrassing domestic gross that failed to breach a quarter of a million). Bar my parents, I can't actually name anyone who's seen it either. I admit that British film has produced some dire stuff like Lesbian Vampire Killers, Sex Lives Of The Potato Men and Keith Lemon: The Film (or just him in general), but this ones more in line quality-wise with About A Boy. If you're a cynic, you'll hate it, but that's your problem.

If that's not enough then I go back to my original argument. LOOK AT THAT CAST!

FOUR out of five
Contains: a damn good advert for British film from the director of What Happens In Vegas... actually, ignore that last bit.

*Aimed at the film, not the book which I've never read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light Entertainment, 12 Jun. 2008
By 
C. Powell (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
If you read the book like me, you will only notice a loose following of the story line, in my mind many of the funniest moments of the book have been missed out of this film. The film in it's own right isn't bad and has a few funny moments, however, I can't help feeling if they had extended it from 90minutes then it could have been a whole of a lot better. If you watch the film and enjoy it, then definitely buy the book afterwards as it's a whole lot better.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent, likeable movie, 6 July 2008
By 
G. J. Oxley "Gaz" (Tyne & Wear, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
In a nutshell: Set in the mid-80s, James McAvoy plays Brian Jackson, a working-class Essex boy with a thirst for knowledge who realises a dream to go to university (in this case Bristol) and enter University Challenge. On the way he falls in love with a beautiful blonde member of the quiz team but ultimately realises it's the plainer, but still attractive, brunette who is the girl for him - a la 'Gregory's Girl'.

Fear not, the above `love twist' I revealed won't spoil the plot for you. It's made blatantly clear within the first 15 minutes that this is what will happen. And that's maybe the problem with the movie - it's all a bit predictable and safe - save for a fantastic twist in the University Challenge studios.

It has nice performances from James McAvoy and Dominic Cooper, both set for future stardom, and the cast includes the always fantastic John Henshaw wearing a dodgy `tache. I must also mention the frighteningly realistic portrayal of Bamber Gascoigne by Mark 'League of Gentleman' Gatiss and Catherine Tate's sympathetic turn as Brian's mother.

Adapted by David Nicholls from his own book, the film isn't particular smart enough, funny enough or romantic enough to be a major entry in either the rom-com or just plain comedy classic stakes. But on its own limited terms it's a watchable and likeable enough movie to while away a spare hour and a half. `Starter for Ten' is a joint effort by the BBC and HBO and boasts a production credit for a certain Mr Tom Hanks. And if you're of a `certain age' you'll probably enjoy the not bad soundtrack of early to mid-80s hits by British artists.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Okay, 14 April 2012
This review is from: Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
This film is quite a good film if you haven't read the book. After reading the book you will realise that there is a couple of things which have been taken out and it doesn't make sense why, (University Challenge ending). Other than that this is a great little film which portrays the characters quite well. Adding to this, the film is filled with songs by The Cure and The Smiths which act as a great little bonus. In my opinion I would suggest you to watch the film but let you know that the book is a better and makes a lot more sense.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing film!, 28 July 2013
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This review is from: Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
A brilliant DVD, a reasonable price, easy simple transaction, arrived very quickly and would completely recommend.

A really good film in some ways a coming of age classic, a must watch and some brilliant acting full of an all star cast before they really hit the big time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fun, light hearted comedy about growing up in the 80s!, 12 April 2012
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This review is from: Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Watched this film over a lazy sunday afternoon (despite not having read the book) and it was surprisly good... The premise is simple and one we can all relate to - we all do it after all, watch quiz shows and we feel our little egos swell with pride when we know the answer and the host pronouces our answer to be CORRECT!!

Brian (James McAvoy) does that too, ever since he was a kid, he wants to know everything - and yes he means everything, from Gandhi to Freud, from history to philosophy, trivia and general knowledge and his dream is to appear on University Challenge some day, and be just like those "knowledgable" people he watched as a kid, whilst his dad patted him on the back everytime he guessed an answer right. So when he gets accepted into Bristol university and naively enters the "grown up" world after moving out of his mum's place (played brilliantly by a surprisingly demure Catherine Tate) little does he know that not all people he meets are like his mates back in the small town (watch out for a funny James Corden)

A special mention to Mark Gatiss who does a fantastic Gascoigne impression and a masterful Benedict Cumberbatch appears as the awkward Patrick (Post graduate who has been leading the Bristol team for University Challenge for 3 years), and wants to put the best team together after losing 3 years in a row. And then starts the roller coaster journey of getting onto the team for appearing on UC... there is a ego war to deal with Patrick, a pretty blonde girl who willingly goes on a date with Brian, a quirky but likeable Rebecca who has several very strong opinions and the icecream-van man sleeping with his mum!! Some tears, some surprises and a lot of laughs ensue...

Will Brian make it on the team? Of course he will, but will they win? Who will win University Challenge? Above all Starter for 10 is a very British film, and those who grew up during Thatcher years are going to relate it too... well written and a good cast putting together a good show. Watch it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good account of student life., 25 Sept. 2014
By 
David H J Ashdown (Wales) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Captures the mid 1980s perfectly and well acted by all players. It follows the fortunes of a student who desperately wants to be on University Challenge after gaining entry to Bristol University. If you've ever been a student living in digs and partying the night away you'll be able to recognise a lot of the scenes , when the film started I thought it was set in the 1970s when I was a student mind you I expect student life doesn't change much over time - Very funny at times.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captures being an 80's student so well, 7 Sept. 2007
By 
Andrew Holmes (Hampshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
This is a great film. As someone who was at university at the same time, it captured the essence of what it was like so well: the music, the digs, the political environment; everything really. The only problem my wife and I had was that it took us 30 minutes to get 10/10 on the 80's quiz.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good Anglo/American comedy, 5 May 2007
By 
Del 58 "Del 58" (Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Produced by BBC & HBO, this lowish budget movie is aimed at those that enjoy the likes of Four Weddings and Notting Hill. It's not quite in the same league though. Having just watched the 2nd Season of Rome I was suprised to see a few familiar cast members popping up in minor roles (interestingly that is also a BBC/HBO production). James McAvoy is good as always, and he's ably supported by an excellent cast including Catherine Tate, Charles Dance & Lindsay Duncan. I was a little disappointed that a lot of the music is provided by The Cure. Although I like the band,I hoped for a bit more variety. The film is supposed to be set in Southend and Bristol, so I was suprised the filmakers chose a location that bore no resemblance to Southend whatsoever. I live there, I only wish it was half as nice!!! All in all an agreeable enough way to spend 90 minutes as long as you don't expect too much. However, if you want to see what a great actor James McAvoy is, catch Last King of Scotland instead.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this movie!, 2 Sept. 2007
By 
This review is from: Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I just rented it for the second time in two weeks. Now it's on my "to buy" list. Funny, quirky, witty, sexy are only a few adjectives that describe this movie. The performances are so refreshing! Maybe I've been watching too much Hollywood pap (save the wonderful British-made period films that I watch over and over) but this film knocked me off my heels!

I only discovered this movie after digging into the filmography of James McAvoy. Having recently fallen in love with his performance in Becoming Jane, I then rented The Last King of Scotland and now Starter for 10. James is the most exciting actor to come to light in a VERY long time. Most actors are one-trick ponies - posers. They are the same in every performance. James boldly breaks that formula and creates characters that I cannot take my eyes off of. I'm anxiously awaiting his next starring role in Atonement with Keira Knightly.

I highly recommend Starter for 10. If you're looking for a fun, funny, brilliant little film, then this is the one!
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Starter For 10 [Blu-ray]
Starter For 10 [Blu-ray] by Tom Vaughan (Blu-ray - 2008)
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