NIGHTCRAWLER REVIEW

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Donnie’s really gone Dark-o

Jake Gyllenhaal manages to do his best Patrick Bateman impression and out-Bale Bale in one of his best performances to date.

Dark, demented and very good. If a little predictable.

So what’s it about? When Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal), a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.

Within the opening sequence, we get the essence of Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) as he is caught stealing copper fencing from the train tracks. Flashing that Cheshire cat smile and pleading innocence, you can see the cogs turning. And in the bat of an eye, that smile fades instantly and a monster is unleashed. Cool, calm and collected. Striking when the moment arises.

A true American psycho. A smooth talking charmer with ambitions that he will stop at nothing to achieve.

An impressive and well written debut from Dan Gilroy. Fantastically shot. The cityscape at night was captured brilliantly by the cinematography of Robert Elswit.

Nightcrawler is somewhat of a slow burner as we watch Bloom climb the social ladder for fame and glory.

It starts with our sociopath desperately seeking a job and smooth talking his way into anything. That is until he witnesses a crash. Those flashing lights and ruthless nightcrawlers (Freelance cameramen preying the streets for horrific accidents, murders and crime scenes) creeping out from the urban underworld, craving for a pay check soon sets our protagonist on his path.

Bill Paxton plays the relentless Joe Loder brilliantly and it’s good to see him back in movies. His character dispensing the mantra: “If it bleeds, it leads” unwittingly sets up a competition for carnage.

Gilroy does make some fantastic commentary and satire on the censorship and attitude of the news media. The public’s obsession for blood and trauma constantly pushing them to distort moral and ethical boundaries for fifteen minutes of fame.

The film builds up and up as the madness ascends to crazy and scarily realistic levels. Where Bloom first intervenes small car accidents with a little handheld camera; it soon escalates to breaking into live crime scenes and moving pieces of evidence (and even bodies) to make the perfect shot.

It was great to see Riz Ahmed (Four Lions). He plays the clueless sidekick with aplomb. Oblivious to Bloom’s ambitions and unaware of what lay in store. Some of his encounters with Gylenhaal make for dark but comical viewing.

Rene Russo also stood out as Nina Romina (Awful name. Didn’t realise that until I saw the credits). Questioning the morals behind Bloom’s actions but desperately enabling him for the sake of keeping her job and bringing in the ratings.

SMALL BIT OF TRIVIA: Dan Gilroy is the husband of Rene Russo and brother of Tony Gilroy who is responsible for Michael Clayton and The Bourne franchise.

The chase sequences are intense. Especially in the closing moments as Bloom’s descent into darkness reaches breaking point.

There are suspenseful moments to be had. The sequence in which Bloom and his sidekick are filming the police attempting to apprehend a murder suspect. A scenario the pair set up. I was hooked. Nail biting stuff. Executed perfectly. The tension mounting as you wait for the fireworks to go off.

At times, it did feel like the trailers did show too much of the film. You knew when to expect several of the bigger moments in the film. That’s not to say there aren’t more surprises along the way.

Bloom is intelligent and some of his speeches rival Bateman. But crafty and calculated he may be, they go on far too long. Especially in his dinner date with Nina. We get it. You’re mad. Get on with it.

One major qualm is that with a film like this; there are only ever two outcomes. It seemed to go down the Bad Lieutenant (Cage Lieutenant) route which makes for a surprisingly flat (if typical) and slightly abrupt ending.

Don’t get me wrong. Gyllenhaal is a tour de force and should be commended. The weight loss added to his creepy demeanour and shark toothed grin. Gilroy has written and directed a visceral descent into the dark side of the American dream. Something we haven’t seen for a while. A resurgence? Maybe.

As Lou Bloom says, “If you want the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket”. Well, if you have the money, buy a ticket and go see it.

Certainly worth a watch. And we are live in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

3.5/5 (But this may change)

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HORNS REVIEW

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Yawwwnnnnssss . . .

Hell hath no fury like a horny Harry.

Daniel Radcliffe delivers another standout performance. It’s just a shame that despite his best efforts, this film should go back to the fiery hole it came from.

You’re a demon, Harry.

Anyway, enough Harry Potter jokes. Let’s get down to business. I would rather watch Radcliffe rap in that weird American accent for two hours than endure this turgid affair again.

So what’s it all about? In the aftermath of his girlfriend’s (Juno Temple) mysterious death, a young man (Radcliffe) awakens to find strange horns sprouting from his temples. (That’s right, horns)

We get straight into the luvvy duvvy guff with Radcliffe and Temple cuddling up in their loveshack; a taddy old treehouse in the middle of some dreary woodland. The pair have good chemistry but it’s all a little tame and dreadfully slow.

That is until the incident. It literally flicks forward with Ignacious Perrish (You read that right. If you find that ridiculous, I haven’t even started) being accused of his beloved’s murder.

Radcliffe certainly plays the part well and I thought he mastered the American accent quite well. If you can get over that rapping cameo on the Jimmy Fallon show.

As Ig attempts to piece together his girlfriend’s murder, he suddenly wakes up very horny (Come on, stop it). Yeah, he has horns. Some lazy plot device about turning away from God and being claimed by the Devil. Blimey, if everyone did that, I’d be seeing all sorts of horny folk (Okay, let’s it).

I understand that this was adapted from Joe Hill’s gothic novel. This film certainly didn’t make me want to read it. I can accept a level (well, a degree) of fantasy and exaggeration but it goes from dead pan serious to flat out ridiculous.

And that’s the problem, the tone very much like the story line is . . . all over the place. And by the time, it makes a decision. It’s over or you’ve lost interest.

The horns were just plain weird. The fact people start acting strange. From telling the truth to performing their darkest desires stretching from a girl scoffing a box of doughnuts to a dentist banging his nurse to a comatose Ig.

Some of the confessions are comical (An old lady fighting the urge to tell an annoying toddler to shut the front door, for example). While other moments just fall flat on their arse. A scene making some lazy commentary on the news media could have been done so much better. Their initial truth telling comments were eerily realistic but the all out royal rumble in the dirt was just farcical.

What infuriated me is that while I was trying to get my head around the whole horn thing. The only thing that kept me intrigued while this film churned along then goes and flashes back to when the star crossed lovers first met as kids.

It was incredibly corny, predictable and just plain dull. In the first ten minutes, all the characters pretty much spoon fed you their origins and then we have to see it? Why?

It was only when we got to see the last few encounters before Juno Temple’s untimely demise that it got a little more interesting. A little. Her role was completely wasted, to be honest. A shame.

What really disappointed me was that the whole devil angle wasn’t really used until the last 30 minutes. The last 30 minutes of a two hour film?!

In that last half an hour, things finally kicked off (At last) with Ig embracing the darkness with a scaly necklace in tow. Busting out the old Parseltongue to his slytherin’ companions and unleashing the horny avenger.

But in between that, we had to endure predictable red herring murder mystery BS and surreal moments that had a hint of Twin Peaks . . . On crack.

Director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes/Mirrors) had a good supporting cast at his fingertips; David Morse (The Green Mile), James Remar (Dexter), Max Minghella (That British douche from The Internship) and Heather Graham.

They do their best to lift their flat and uninspiring characters. Graham and Minghella stood out particularly. Joe Anderson (Across The Universe/The Grey) was also pretty good as Ig’s brother. But all the finger pointing and flicking about led to the same old end result.

It was so obvious who it was but the how did catch me out . . . A little bit.

The jazz music interludes did my nut in. What was the point of them? It seemed every time I got interested in a scene, Aja and writer Keith Bunn would throw in something that would kill the tension or disrupt what was a good scene.

And the finale? Well, what a Keiwaste of time.

Ol’ Harry turns into a badass devil and all he does is mope, scream and get beaten up . . .  a lot. It was unbelievably flat.

A couple moments of dark humour and crafty special effects does not a good movie make. Radcliffe certainly carries the film with all the charisma he can muster. But not even his magic can work on this.

It just seemed to produce more plot holes, more questions and by the end you couldn’t care less.

If you’re a supernatural or Radcliffe nut, give it a go. But otherwise, the power of Christ compels you NOT to see this film.

In the words of Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules . . .

2/5

THE BABADOOK REVIEW

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The Baba-boo-k!

A well-acted low budget horror that fails to live up to the hype. The wait for a decent horror movie goes on . . .

After all the buzz and promise, I came out of the cinema not in tears from fear and anxiety but tears of laughter.

After enduring a slow burning 40-odd minute build up, the moment arrives. The moment in which the dreaded Babadook finally makes its appearance and boy, oh, boy . . .

His cry sounded like a demented sheep. Baaa Baaa Dook. His appearance? *POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT* Nothingy more than Noel Fielding in his Hitcher get up from The Mighty Boosh. Minus the polo mint for an eye. And too much black lipstick. Oh! And of course, not forgetting those rubbery gloves that the Penguin wore in Batman Returns to complete the look.

To be honest, The Babadook felt like it was going through the motions. Or more importantly, through the checklist. Creaky floorboard here. Closing door there. Predictable. It doesn’t help that when the creature finally makes its appearance, it disappoints on every level.

It’s always a risk. I mean, look at Signs! After all the little teasers, the shadows in the night, the fast moving shapes and then we get that dreadful CGI thing. I was more freaked out by the demented pop up characters in the Babadook book (Totally rhymed there) than the actual demon. Thanks to the brilliant stop motion animation of Michael Cusack.

A little harsh you might say. Now, there are some plaudits to be had here and it’s not all bad just a little disappointing. Writer/director Jennifer Kent actually tried to tell a story. One that deals with grief and overcoming fears. Commendable in this day of shaky handcam and found footage horror movies that are in need of some serious exorcisms from the cinema.

And more importantly with two characters that you actually cared about. On first impressions, I was afraid that Daniel Henshall would annoy the hell out of me as Robbie. His initial monster hunter spiel was a little OTT but it did make for some comical moments as an exhausted Amelia (Essie Davis) must check every cupboard and nook and cranny.

However, as his character continued acting out and we learn more about his behaviour, I applaud the young lad’s performance and by the end I was routing for him. Essie Davis (The Matrix Revolutions – I know? I’m still trying to work out who?) was fantastic and played the grief stricken mother. She works well with Henshall and they make a great and believable pairing.

The film does deal with depression and paranoia quite well. And to be honest, there was a reasonable story beneath the surface. Amelia and Prue’s (Cathy Adamek) fractious sibling relationship was interesting and made for some heated drama with Prue prying into Robbie’s wellbeing. To be honest there were parts where I thought that maybe Tim Purcell’s Babadook wasn’t needed at all.

Don’t get me wrong, the bumps in the night, the Babadook popping up in books, neighbour’s homes and televisions was eery and the strange noises did create good moments of suspense but the big pay off wasn’t worth the wait. The scuttling and the door knocking was creepy enough but you kept wanting more. Oh . . . And the finale!

I could feel the burning eyes of my fellow cinema goers as I struggled to fight back the snorting. It actually made me snort with laughter.

Without saying too much. It felt like something out of Home Alone with little ‘ol Robbie doing everything to protect his family. With his little arsenal of weaponry in tow, he fired cricket balls, set up trip wire on the stairs. Comical.

The ending wasn’t bad but it was a little flat after a frenetic and tense few minutes. In fact it was a little weird and a little predictable. It had good moments, a couple of jumpy bits and tried to be a little more than your bog standard horror but it just didn’t polish off as well as you hoped.

Certainly not the worst. In fact, the best one (So far) and it’s great to see a low budget Australian horror film prove what the big dumb commercialized American hybrids are failing to deliver. But at the same time, I am comparing it to the likes of As Above So Below, Oculus, Ouija and Annabelle, which doesn’t say a lot. And with the Pyramid approaching, I fear the wait for a decent horror film will continue.

3/5

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU REVIEW

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This is where I leave the cinema for a bit . . .

No, it’s not that bad. But not that great either considering the talent at Shawn Levy’s fingertips.

Levy’s projects have always been okay (Real Steel/ Date Night/The Internship). For some of you those titles might make you wince. The master of ground breaking comedy classics? Not even close.

The cast did their best with the material. It’s just a shame that the material is not that good. In all fairness, Levy takes a stab at family dramedy. But maybe he shoudn’t have.

AND if you wanted anyone to head a dysfunctional family, it would be Jason Bateman (Arrested Development/Horrible Bosses).

So what’s it all about? When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother (Jane Fonda) and their spouses and exes.

Jason Bateman was brilliant. He carried the film in my opinion. His marriage breakdown story line was hardly original but it gave an extra something to the endless childish sibling bickering that dominated the majority of the screen time. How it was all resolved was a little predictable and terribly flat but at least there were a few dramatic moments to be had.

Tina Fey didn’t really deliver as much as I hoped. I know she’s funny. Come on, 30 Rock and Date Night proved that. It felt like she played it safe and stuck with the tame script which made her highly unmemorable, bar two little scenes. She worked well with Bateman and did her best but with her comedic prowess, you expected something a little better.

Adam Driver (What If?) was a much needed comedy injection. His lines were hardly comedy gold but his delivery and style managed to get a smile out of me. His relationship with Bateman made for an entertaining and endearing one.

Connie Britton was wasted in her role. A shame after her turn in Friday Night Lights and Nashville. A nothingy character that didn’t really add anything to the mix. Nothing more than a psychiatrist MILF that Adam Driver got to show off to the family.

Speaking of nothingy role, Timothy Olyphant come on down! Absolutely gutted after his terrific performance in Justified. His character was involved in a naff subplot that didn’t really go anywhere. This is what infuriated me with TIWILY. There were so many missed opportunities with the characters and the cast to make more drama and better story lines.

I know that this was adapted from a Jonathan Tropper novel. I can’t say how faithful the film is to its source material but it certainly hasn’t made me want to read it.

Some of the gags were just plain terrible. I mean the recurring joke of the little toddler moving his potty around to poop all over the house was just not funny. The little toddler himself actually was hilarious. His improvisation with some of the cast was brilliant. They didn’t expect him to retort back. More of that would have been perfect.

But potty-ing (I know it’s not a word. I’m not wasting any time finding another) around the house and flinging poo? Awww. No. AWWW – Are you kidding me? Put your potty in the bathroom, boy. Jeez.

Anyhoo . . . The sibling rivalry and tension wasn’t badly done. Everyone can relate to it in some capacity and the moments in which they look back and experience the old nostalgia make for some nice moments. One of the gags that should have been branded as just plain lazy actually entertained me.

A scenario involving some marijuana and a synagogue classroom actually allowed for a comical encounter between Bateman, Driver and Corey Stoll (Homeland). It was great to see Stoll have a bigger role and he doesn’t do a bad job as the stubborn older brother.

Ben Schwartz was incredibly annoying as the hyperactive Rabbi Charles Grodner or Boner to everybody else. Delightful. A guest that gets a giggle and then overstays his welcome . . . in almost every scene. Not even the (usually) hilarious Kathryn Hahn (Step Brothers/We’re The Millers) could save the day with her kooky momma hell bent on getting preggers. It was weak.

And Jane Fonda . . . Apart from having fake pumped up breasts to cue inevitable breast feeding gags, she was highly unmemorable. In fact, there was a bizarre revelation that occurs nearer the end of the film which doesn’t fit in at all. It didn’t work and just completely unnecessary. It was nothing more than a lazy plot device to stop the family scrapping. The only bit of real heated drama that got me interested.

Dax Sheppard (Without A Paddle) played the two-timing sleazebag well. But is this the only character that he can play? And to be honest, when he was first introduced with the Howard Stern DJ spiel, it wasn’t funny. Just annoying as hell. It made a change for Abigail Spencer (Suits) to play a more meatier role as the cheating wife. But the story line was so hammy and predictable, it never really hit the heights that you’d hope.

Rose Byrne (Damages) and Bateman had good chemistry but their love subplot was so generic and corny that I really couldn’t care. Tropper left their little romance so open as a feeble attempt to prevent the predictable outcome but just made it flat and uninteresting.

To be honest, this film only did one thing. Well, two. Waste my time. And make me realise how good August: Osage County was. If you want a good family drama, then I’d invest your time in that instead.

There is the odd moment to be had. One chuckle here, one little heart plucker there. But memorable and entertaining? Quotable and re-watchable? Meh.

2/5

BOGOWIE REVIEW

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Wowie, Bogowie!

Riveting, engaging (if a little corny) with a slightly abrupt ending but a treat none the less. If your cinema’s showing it, go see it.

I never miss a film at my cinema these days. Merely for the very fact (I have too much time on my hands) that the films I’ve never heard of are normally the ones that surprise me. Welcome. Or should I say, Powitanie Bogowie!

In a nutshell, Bogowie follows the early career of cardiac surgeon Zbigniew Religa. Despite the harsh reality of a 1980s Poland, he successfully leads a team of doctors to the country’s first human heart transplant.

I went in with no knowledge, no Polish and came out pleasantly surprised. I couldn’t believe the amount of showing times this film had at my local Cineworld but now I’ve seen it, I can see why.

It’s not without its imperfections but in the endless wave of “sludge” (lazy, poor movies with one dimensional characters and cardboard plots), it was good to see something stand out.

Tomasz Kot is brilliant as Religa. He plays the part to perfection with plenty of charisma. Exactly what you need in a leading character.

The opening sequence delivers a brief overview of the medical situation in the 80s Poland for those who didn’t live in the times (or were even born). We see a medical doctor shunned and persecuted for attempting to perform an organ transplant; only for the patient to die on the operating table. The procedure was prohibited and the doctor branded a murderer.

The first 30 minutes or so zipped along in an instant. Frantic, tense and heartbreaking (Pardon the expression) as Religa experiments with corpses in between treating living ones. His precision and dedication is something to be commended for. However, from his first operation in which he attempts to save a patient without his attending’s approval (or his attending), we quickly get a sense of the man and know what to expect for the next two hours.

Inevitably, his concern and ambition for medical progression instantly makes enemies in all the wrong places. Religa’s confrontations with the medical board are unbelievable. Unbelievable on the grounds for why he is forbidden. The moral and ethical debates surrounding the organ transplant procedure are dealt with brilliantly.

Religa is not always painted in the best light. You find his ambition comes off a little ruthless as he puts patients on the spot pressing for an answer. An answer to something that was forbidden and still very much in the experimental stages.

BUT at the same time, a procedure that could (and would prove to) extend the patient’s life and more importantly, give them one. Instead of being left to rot in a hospital wired up to machinery for an indefinite time.

His treatment of his wife was expected but also terrible. Neglecting her in a flat in the city. Rewarding her with trips away but calling on her when he needed her to confirm that what he is doing is right. There could have been more drama made of that but I felt that the role was restricted and put there to break up the hum drum of the hospital melodrama.

The tone seemed to be a little over the place. After a sombre and dramatic opening, it seems to get a little too light that it’s almost soapy like ER. When Religa hires and fires the same doctor who keep questioning his motives, it was funny to start with but it soon became a running joke that went on far too long. It felt like I was watching Dr Cox from Scrubs.

However, a chance encounter between Religa and a high ranking government official was macabre but unexpected. The fact he takes one look at the chap and says, “I’ll be seeing you soon” got an unexpected chuckle.

The actual medical operations are quite detailed. The make up and special effects are fantastic. Not for the squeamish. But once you’ve seen Religa take out heart after heart; bar the drama as he gets closer and closer to achieving what was deemed impossible, it all gets a little repetitive.

It was certainly interesting how Religa broke away from the hospital that trained him to make his own surgery. It was suspenseful and riveting as he tries desperately to secure funding. Telling little white lies to get the best people possible. This is perfectly demonstrated when his new medical team arrive to nothing but four walls and a roof with white marker highlighting where each room will be.

The pace does dip in places and at two hours, I did feel my eyes wander nearer the end as the repetition seemed to pop up in the story arch. Doc says no. Religa does it anyway. He fires disapproving team mate. Re-hires when he needs them to do the op.

It doesn’t help when you know the inevitable outcome. It was still an eye opener. Don’t get me wrong. But after all the build up, it just ends quite abruptly. Just that’s it. This crucial point did that and the rest is . . . History. Cue a quick caption summarising the rest of Religa’s life followed by the credits. Oh?

I mean we had endless ops in which Religa got closer to keeping a patient alive after the procedure. There was only ever going to be two outcomes. BUT it just fell a bit flat for me.

A charismatic lead, a riveting story certainly delivers enough drama to keep me engrossed. It may be a little repetitive and overlong. BUT I’ve seen a lot worse this week alone.

3/5 for me.

LOVE, ROSIE REVIEW

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Love the cast. But the film?

The film was actually a lot better than I expected. Certainly better than The Best of Me and that’s down to the chemistry of two very likeable leads in Claflin and Collins.

Yes, yes! I saw a rom com . . . and I liked it. Kind of. It’s the same old schmaltzy guff with the inevitable will-they-won’t-they spiel but at least we had a couple whose dilemmas and choices actually kept my cynicism subdued for a good 90 minutes.

So what’s it all about? Rosie (Lilly Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin) have been best friends since they were 5, so they couldn’t possibly be right for one another . . . or could they? When it comes to love, life and making the right choices, these two are their own worst enemies (Awww . . . Yuck).

The film is initially a flashback skimming through the years as we see our couple keep messing up or being pushed away by a spanner thrown in the works (i.e. getting preggers or falling for someone else).

I was originally going to complain about the continuity which is a little bad as the pair are supposed to be in their 30s. By the end, they still look 18. That was until I heard Beyonce’s Crazy in Love and had to Google it to realise that song was released in 2003?! Made me feel old before the film began and crushed my continuity quips. A little.

The whole “boy friend”/”boyfriend” and “girl friend”/”girlfriend” debate is always an interesting dynamic with plenty of meat to sink your teeth into. Now I haven’t read the novel by Cecelia Ahern so I cannot comment on how loyal the film was to the material. But she wrote P.S. I Love You, which wasn’t a bad film either (What’s wrong with me?).

The school melodrama was all too true for me. The little things made me laugh. The students using MSN messenger to speak to each other in IT lessons was spot on. Mad that something like MSN is already a relic.

Director Christian Ditter has a talented British cast at his fingertips. The beautiful (What? I’m in love) Lilly Collins (Mortal Instruments) gives a sterling performance as Rosie.  She certainly carries the film and proves she can take on a leading role. I expect to see more of her (Hope to. Oi! In an acting sense . . . and other – No!).

It’s strange to see Sam Claflin in a normal role after his demented turn in The Riot Club. He plays the part well and has great chemistry with LC. I actually cared what happened to the couple. They weren’t flat and one dimensional. They were rounded and flawed. Normal people for a change.

It was easygoing and quite funny. Dramatic with the odd heart plucking moment for the easy weepers. There were some jokes that bordered a little on The Inbetweeners territory; i.e. a situation involving a condom took me by surprise. But it just managed to pull it off.

BUT then there were some jokes that fell flat on their backside. Where I laughed at Rosie being caught in bed handcuffed with a copper by her young ‘un, I then shook my head as Rosie takes said child to school with a giant bed railing handcuffed to her wrist. Oh dear.

The same can be said for certain characters. Some excelled where others just failed to stand out. Christian Cooke (Cemetery Junction) played the cocky chump brilliantly. Jaime Winstone (Made in Dagenham) was not as irritating as I thought and to be honest, I would have been happy to see more of her as she worked well with Collins and had a good supporting character.

Tamsin Egerton (St. Trinians), on the other hand; (Beautiful though she may be) I didn’t understand why she was playing the American? She did a good job at the accent. But really? They couldn’t get an American actress? And to be honest, her part was quite unnecessary and quite annoying. Her character had the opportunity to cause more tension and conflict but merely delivered a spicy bit of drama and then withered into the background. A shame.

The same can be said for Suki Waterhouse (Pusher) who played the snobby manipulative model as well as she could. But her character was about as wafer thin as her.

The teen pregnancy drama was dealt with quite sensitively and made for some engaging viewing as Rosie make some serious decisions. There were also some endearing moments to be had, especially between Rosie and her father.

This film certainly surprised me. It’s hardly original and won’t top the classic British rom-coms but it managed to deliver some good drama (Sometimes life has other plans), good laughs and a good cast.

Nothing like a bit of C & C.

3/5 for me

FURY REVIEW

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Feel the fury! Well . . . Sort of.

NO! It’s not another Marvel hero origins movie. Although how good would a Nick Fury movie be? Anyway . . .

David Ayer (Training Day/End of Watch) pens a hard hitting visceral war drama with the aid of a stellar cast.

BUT with an overlong running time and a lagging middle act, it falls short of the greats.

It has been a while since we had a war film and within the last two years, we have been rewarded with several. A little resurgence, almost. Not a bad thing at all. The only problem after so many classics (The Bridge on The River Kwai, The Great Escape, The Guns of Navarone to name a few); is the next film that follows merely a regurgitation?

Saving Private Ryan and the equally brilliant Band of Brothers certainly broke that mould and proved otherwise BUT in the process left a tough act to follow. And I find it hard not to draw comparisons. The Monuments Men felt old before it even got a chance. A rehashed Dad’s Army with little on laughs and little on drama. Fury on the other hand . . .

“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent”.

Let’s start with the good. You can normally bank on Brad Pitt. And he delivers another solid performance. If you’re expecting Lieutenant Aldo Raine from Inglorious Basterds, you may be left feeling a little disappointed. But Pitt certainly brings a charismatic character to life in his expressions and posture alone.

Where Ayer excels is in the little things; the impact the war has had on the soldiers psychologically. Of course, Ayer shows the level of chaos and destruction that has been brought to Germany as the Allies make the final push. An opening sequence in which we have nothing but silence as a German soldier rides a horse over a field of fallen men was both haunting and harrowing.

Ayer makes an interesting commentary on the human condition. The fact that the soldiers no longer see themselves as human. They are simply killing machines, fighting for survival. The meal sequence perfectly demonstrated this. The scene may have dragged nearer the end and lulled what was a suspenseful and tense encounter but the point was still crucial.

Lerman played the part well as fresh meat Norman Ellison, a typist who has been called up to help in the final push. The juxtaposition between him and Collier (Pitt) work brilliantly. His quick lessons of war by Collier hit home.

The meal sequence was a perfect comparative piece as Collier (Pitt) and Ellison (Logan Lerman – Percy Jackson) attempt to have a moment of normalcy in which they sit at a table to have a meal with two German women. The rest of team inevitably crash the party. It was a perfect statement exemplifying that war changes everything and everyone.

That normalcy is weakness but where it was interesting at first, it dragged on far too long. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) was demented but also quite irritating as his character continued to yammer. Where I felt compassion for the man, I soon prayed for a bombshell to get him off the screen. Terrible to say for such a film.

Shia LaBeouf (Transformers) was an unexpected surprise. After all the controversy surrounding his personal life and the rumours going around about his “method acting”; one particular rumour being that he actually pulled out one of his own teeth to get the feel of the character, he gave a good (and quite normal) performance.

The action was brutal, graphic and violent. It made a change to have a tank warfare film (I can’t recall too many tank movies in particular). The set pieces in which the tanks battle against each other were brilliantly executed.

The claustrophobia and pressure of fighting in a tank was captured perfectly. Ayer allowed for some moments of camaraderie between the rag tag team of misfits and showed how in sync they had to be to survive attack after attack.

To be honest, I was happy to see more of that. The only problem is that the more explosions and battle sequences we got in the second half of the film, they seemed to mesh into one continuous sequence and what didn’t help is that some of the characters didn’t really shine as much as you anticipated. You felt empathy because of what they were fighting for but otherwise . . .

Michael Pena (End of Watch) was highly unmemorable merely repeating other character’s lines and stating the obvious, “That’s five against 300”. A shame considering how talented an actor he is. Bernthal’s indecipherable yammering did my nut in and after a while LaBeouf’s preaching prattled on a bit.

The ending was tragically predictable which is a statement in itself as how many outcomes can there be in a war? I will certainly not forget what those men went through but will I remember this film? I mean Saving Private Ryan had an array of characters with such a simple story line but it had me engrossed, routing for them.

Fury caught my attention but I could feel my eyes wavering over that watch again.

The set pieces are good, if a little repetitive. The cast do their best if their characters are not as rounded as you would hope. Ayer delivers a visceral, if overlong, war drama but it didn’t quite hit it off for me.

3/5