SAY WHEN REVIEW

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WHEN! WHEN! WHEN!

When . . . will they stop churning films out like these?

A little harsh but oh so disappointing. (NOT Kevin Sorbo Hercules DISAPPOINTED!)

Keira Knightley certainly does her best but even with a decent supporting cast; you can’t help but feel that the film doesn’t deliver enough romance, enough comedy and enough of . . . anything really.

So what’s it all about? In the throes of a quarter-life (What?) crisis, Megan (Knightley) panics when her boyfriend (Mark Webber) proposes, then taking an opportunity to escape for a week, hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year-old Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz), who lives with her world-weary single dad (Sam Rockwell).

Knightley has already proven with Begin Again that she can deliver an American accent and handle a leading role with no qualms. She certainly delivers another solid performance which helps carry this lacklustre affair.

We start with the inevitable cheesy (and nauseating shaky hand held camera) montage of Knightley and her teenage friends having fun during their prom. A little unnecessary and overlong. That then skips to the present with Megan’s slacker plodding along through life. Flipping signs for her father’s business and constantly making up excuses as to why she hasn’t seen her career councillor.

A character I could relate to a little too easily. Her procrastination and immaturity becoming a bug bear for all who know her (Not that bit . . . I hope).

Ellie Kemper (Sex Tape) was probably the only high school friend who had any decent dialogue or actual substance. Constantly trying to control and push Megan to sort her life out. The sort of friend that we all have or (if you’re lucky) used to.

Her cringe-inducing wedding dance made for unsettling but laughable viewing. I’m never going to listen to Daniel Bedingfield’s “If You’re Not The One” in the same way again. But then again, I never liked that song. But that’s a different story.

The wedding was the perfect platform for Megan to hit breaking point. There was one unexpected revelation that I didn’t see coming which made for a surprise. The inevitable friends growing up and moving on spiel is playing to its heart content. Weddings, babies, etc. The usual guff.

However, it is at this moment that Webber’s Anthony (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) decides to pop the question to Megan. Her response? She runs away while pretending to be on a life changing seminar, of course!

Taking some time to re-think all her decisions and frustrations, Megan seeks refuge in 16 year old Annika’s home. Moretz doesn’t do a bad job but her character is a little weak, in comparison to the number of meatier and more memorable roles she has delivered.

Once Megan meets Annika’s dad, the legend that is Sam Rockwell. Moretz seems to be pushed into the background. Only to pop back up when the story is lagging. Her subplot involving a crush on one of her high school friends was all too tame and horribly cliched.

Sam Rockwell was . . . pretty much being Sam Rockwell. Which just about works this time round. To be honest, his role was a lot smaller than I expected. He’s instantly likeable and very entertaining. He works well with Knightley and they have great chemistry. He also delivers some funny lines and a couple of (definite) improvised moments. You could tell the cast were trying not to laugh.

I was frustrated that Megan and Craig had to fall in love with each other. It felt forced. We know Megan was unhappy with Anthony but he wasn’t a complete tool. It just seemed unnecessary. It would have been more of a twist if they didn’t get together. The friendship would have worked better. Don’t get me wrong, K & R do just enough to pull it off . . . and make it bearable.

I was hoping for more of an examination of Megan’s quarter-life crisis, as a lot more people in their 20s are going through this sort of thing, but it’s all resolved a little too easily and with a simple and lazy fling? Run out of ideas, maybe?

The gags are sparse and not very funny. One involving an anorexic tortoise just came off hammy and rather pointless. I mean come on! What was the point of it? A bonding prop for Knightley and Rockwell? And the naming a baby after planets gag wasn’t funny from the first planet. We didn’t need the entire solar system named at us!

In terms of drama, there were some good moments. An awkward encounter between CGM and (the alluring) Gretchen Mol’s (Boardwalk Empire) negligent mother showed promise and allowed Knightley’s Megan to step up but a few sobering words and that’s it? Really? Anyone could have played Mol’s character and to be honest, thinking back the whole scene was a little pointless as she doesn’t make a reappearance.

There was a turning point nearer the end of the film that allowed the little drama that there was to finally kick off. BUT again it’s all swept under the rug and resolved d far too easily. Leaving us with a cliched and highly predictable ending. Flat and expected.

There were some good performances from the rather bland characters. I couldn’t believe Jeff Garlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm was in this. It didn’t seem right without him shouting all the time. He didn’t do too bad a job.

Kaitlyn Dever (Justified) was quite funny and did well as Annika’s mad BFF. Webber played the dimwitted Anthony well. A change from Pilgrim. Completely oblivious to Megan’s feelings but not fully deserving of her frustrated temper.

There was certainly no issue with the pace. It zipped along well enough. I just wish it had a bit going on, that’s all.

Such a shame that it’s not as hard hitting or as offbeat as you wish. A mess but a watchable one. Say When? When you have the spare time and nothing better to watch, I’d say give it a go. They may have changed the title to Laggies but I just wish they could have changed the content instead.

2/5

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TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES REVIEW

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Turtle-y awesome. Cool as shell.

Right, enough reptilian punnery! Let’s do this!

Critically, it’s not perfect. Come on! It’s a film about teenage mutant ninja turtles.

BUT on the criteria of being a fun and entertaining family movie? I came out smiling and that’s saying something.

Now I grew up with the Turtles and was a particular fan of the original 90s movies. Well, the original 1990 movie. The sequels after that were . . . Well, meh. The Secret of the Ooze, oh dear.

Over the years, we have witnessed endless reboots and reworkings that were frankly doing my nut in and when I heard that Bay was bringing them back, I was livid!

I mean he already killed the Transformers franchise. Something that seriously needs to be scrapped.

The trailers gave me hope. They appeared to catch the essence of the gang but their 6 foot gargantuan Hulkesque appearances? Uh oh. But none the less, I went in. A 25 year old with my own gang of miscreants averaging the age of 22.

And I was surprised. Firstly, that there were no kids. All adults. Further cementing the cult status of these iconic reptiles. And secondly, in the film itself.

From the opening introduction, you knew what you were getting yourself into.  A quick explanation of some “scientific” mumbo jumbo about genetic engineering and the inevitable origins of some kung fu fighting critters. Some exposition about a crime syndicate known only as the . . .  Wait for it! The Foot Clan.

Okay, the story is ridiculous. I mean, come on. Any Foot related murders? Really? At least the writers allow the characters to poke fun at the stupidity of it all. A hilarious encounter between Megan Fox (Wowewow. What?) and Whoopi Goldberg (You read that. She’s back . . . in small roles) exemplifies that perfectly as April tries to explain about our heroes in a half-shell (Turtle Power!) to her editor.

Now this is not directed by Bay. It is a Bay produced movie. To be honest, the only thing director Jonathan Liebesmann has borrowed is the special effects, Megan Fox and the wafer thin plot line . . . Oh wait? I can see why the pair have been mistaken.

But Liebesmann and the writers have certainly skipped over the plot holes by filling it with comical scenes, action packed CGI sequences and fun. Something Bay has failed to deliver. Just boredom with overlong running times.

My main qualm was making sure that the essence of the turtles was captured and to that I must commend all involved. The voice cast were spot on. I felt each character was done justice. Some people had found it hard to distinguish between the turtles if not for the different coloured bandanas. I didn’t expect Johnny Knoxville from Jackass as Leonardo. But he certainly brought his gruffy gravitas to the role.

Noel Fisher (Twilight) however . . . TAKE A BOW! He was brilliant as Michaelangelo. Hilarious and instantly loveable. Scene stealing at every possible opportunity. His obsession with a cat playing chopsticks with chopsticks was one gag that did not get old.

The animation was fantastic. The expressions and movements certainly brought the green gang to life.

Megan Fox didn’t do too bad as April. However, just like the Transformers you could feel her character being pushed further into the background as the big guys went to battle. Her insufferable screaming did get a little irritating near the end. It felt like nothing more than a reminder that she was there.

It did feel that Fox was chosen to appease the fan boys of old and new. A news segment in which she must wear yoga pants and pounce on a trampoline said it all about female news anchors and a little about Fox. But she does look a damn sight better without that trout pout now. Anyhoo . . .

Will Arnett (Arrested Development/Lego Batman) was a perfect comedy sidekick and worked well with Fox. Not enough of him and his one liners, to be honest.

I was happy that the whole Raphael/Leonardo fraternal headbutting was breezed over. We had a lot of that in the original 1990 installment. Raphael was always the hot head but we didn’t need to tread through too much old ground.

Tony Shalhoub (Monk) brought some noble gravitas to our favourite furry fighter Splinter. He was certainly not as weak or as feeble as his 1990 movie counterpart. The fact his tail is now a fast moving weapon of its own accord made all the difference. Well, it would have to when he’s dealing with 6 foot muscle bounded turtle teenagers?

But of course, if the others have had an upgrade. That means the infamous sinister samurai Shredder will have one too. To be honest, they seemed to spend so much time on the heroes that Shredder seemed to be nothing more than an afterthought.

An expensive, gigantic mechanical master with several super swords afterthought. A visual threat. It’s just a shame his dialogue is as mechanical as his suit. William Fichtner (Prison Break) made more of an impression as his hammy minion.

Good to see Fichtner back in movies and not giving a stuff. Hamming it up to the max!

The special effects are brilliant. The ice truck chase was hilarious, entertaining and a visual feast for the eyes. However, it does get a little too cartoony by the end and the endless explosions do get a little much. Bay’s influence creeping in?

It kept my interest, had me laughing and to be honest I wanted more. The gang were done to justice. From their elevator beep boxing to spontaneous sewer dancing, they stole the show and are back for business.

Just next time (If there is one) give them a better baddie, a better plot and I’ll be happy to see more of this.

I’ve got to say it, “Kawabunga!” or “Give me another”

3/5

THE BOOK OF LIFE REVIEW

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There’s life in the animation. Shame there isn’t any in the story.

Definitely one for the little ‘uns but adults may find themselves fidgeting. Fidgeting towards the exit door.

Brought to you by Guillermo Del Toro. Meaning; He has nothing to do with it. Other than having a production credit.

The honours go to animation director Jorge R. Gutierrez.

So what’s it all about? Manolo (Diego Luna) is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart (Awww . . . Yuck). Before choosing which path to follow, he embarks on an incredible adventure that spans three fantastical worlds where he must face his greatest fears.

3D is not essential. It certainly would have made the animation more prominent but not a must.

It’s all a little slow to start with. An elongated subplot with a tour guide (Christina Applegate) that introduces the love triangle was all a little unnecessary. The boring spiel of a group of detention kids forced to go on a museum tour just broke up the real story. It felt like a lazy plot device just to explain why the characters are made of wood.

The flicking back and forth may have allowed the detention kids to deliver some funny one liners but the end result could be seen a mile away. Dreadfully corny.

The animated worlds are nearly worth the ticket price alone. Nearly. Especially with the Land of the Remembered. The colours, the detail. Breathtaking.

The love story very much focuses on three friends; Manolo (Luna), Joaquin (Channing Tatum) and Maria (Zoe Saldana). The cast at Gutierrez’s disposal is fantastic. Diego Luna doesn’t do a bad job but his singing leaves a little to be desired.

Some of the songs that he covers sound a little flat i.e. Mumford and Sons – I Will Wait but his cover of Radiohead’s Creep was an unexpected surprise. To be honest, Luna seemed to grasp and sing the songs made for the movie better than the covers.

Tatum was brilliant. If anyone can play a deluded chughead, it would be him. Saldana does her best but her character is so bland and unmemorable. Merely the fire to spurn the contender’s passion.

The whole “love wager” between the rulers of the Lands of the Forgotten (Xibalba – Ron Perlman) and Remembered (La Muerte – Kate Del Castillo) was a little corny and didn’t really get as dark or as interesting as it could have been. Betting on which man Maria will fall for was done so lightly that any real conflict or tension is quickly disposed of.

Whoever lost would be forced to rule of the Land of the Forgotten – a desolate dull landscape whether the wandering spirits are left to disparate. You get an indication of what tone to expect by the fact the tour guide describes how Xibalba is made of tar and all “the icky stuff of the world”. Yeah . . . it’s that sort of film.

I understand it’s a children’s film but there was a moment in how Manolo crosses over to the Land of the Remembered that suggested something a little more macabre. I was hoping it might sneak into the Nightmare Before Christmas/Coraline territory but it’s all dealt with a little too cheesily and surprisingly quick.

So pace certainly wasn’t an issue. Something I always complain about. I couldn’t believe how many stars popped up in this. (Well, their voices). Hector Elizondo, Danny Trejo, Placido Domingo, Cheech Marin and . . . Ice Cube.

Ice Cube surprised me the most. The others I knew would be up for a laugh but it made a change to hear a different tone in Cube’s voice. His Candle Maker character looked strangely a lot like Zeus from Disney’s Hercules. Ron Perlman. I should have known he would pop in a Del Toro (produced) pic. He was delightfully OTT as Xibalba. A proper panto villain in this supernatural pantomine.

The gags are little hit and miss. The overenthusiastic singing nuns were incredibly irritating. But where one lot were irritating, another group were . . . really irritating. No, more mildly entertaining. The Mariachi band (led by Marin) brought the odd giggle, especially with their cover of Rod Stewart’s Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?

It zips along, brings a few chuckles but despite it’s beautiful animation; the characters are dreadfully cliched and the story is oh so predictable. There’s enough to keep the little ‘uns occupied for 90 minutes but the adults might be caught kicking the seats.

2.5/5

OUIJA REVIEW

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I wish they could have used the Ouija board to summon something better.

The wait continues. Bar a few jumpy moments; another poorly written, schlocky horror film hits the big screen. Is it time that Hollywood give up the ghost(s)?

Unfortunately using a low budget amateur cast with up and coming newbies meant one thing. That this film made money. Which means . . . More of this horrific bilge to come.

So what’s it all about? A group of friends must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board.

Apparently, according to the studio release. I didn’t see anyone confronting their fears. Just running around aimlessly or screaming every 20 seconds (like the annoying spectator at the cinema).

The concept is hardly original but if executed properly, the possibilities are endless. If not? Well you get this.

I was really disappointed. It was the perfect platform for a virtually new and unknown cast to make a name for themselves.

It was great to see Olivia Cooke (Emma Decody from Bates Motel) get a leading role. Her supporting turn in The Quiet Ones gave me high hopes.

She does her best but her character is so flat and uninteresting. It feels like she is sleepwalking through the role. And at times she even sounds like it.

The characters were really unmemorable. I had honestly forgotten their names as soon as they appeared. I had to ask my mate who had no recollection either; merely “Bates Bird” and “that one eyed guy from Percy Jackson (Bradley Smith)”.

If not for the jumpy bits, this would have got a zero. For all my cynical meandering about the predictable checklist that this film churned through, there were several moments that got me good and proper.

It helped to have a ridiculously loud cinema sound system and a screaming spectator twitching every two minutes (No, it wasn’t us).

It took a good 40 minutes before things really got going. That’s half of the film. It felt longer than 89 minutes. The story felt like it was going through the motions.

Childhood friends play with Ouija board. Childhood friend decides to play it again. Dies. 30 minutes of dull dialogue with the gang moping around and grieving before finding said board and deciding to play it. Brilliant. NOT!

I don’t believe in the whole Ouija board thing. My brother did one before and felt that the scenes where they used the planchette (the little triangular board. I did my research. Not just strung together, you know) and asked the questions was creepy and quite accurate. To be honest, how could they get that bit wrong?

I don’t think writer/director Stiles White had seen the British equivalent Long Time Dead. That was a disaster BUT a damn sight better than this.

The characters hardly had my empathy but at least I wanted to see what happened to them. Once the Ouija stuff began, it was all the same old guff. Things moving in the background. Doors slamming. Oven hobs coming on (For some reason).

It was only as the film was ending where I got into it. It was racy, frantic and jumpy. The shadow moving on its own accord. The demonic child (Sierra Heuermann) and mother (Claudia Katz) fighting to claim victims. It finally seemed to be going somewhere. Only for it to end so abruptly and flatly that I felt like I wasted my time.

And of course; to add to my frustrations Ouija left it all open for . . . What do you know? Another installment.

Lin Shaye (Insidious) was the most memorable supporting character in the five minutes she was given. That doesn’t say a lot considering her character was unoriginal and derivative in the first place.

The wait goes on for a genuinely tense, atmospheric horror film.

Stocky, generic and bland character sleepwalk through a dull and predictable story line. If not for the jumpy scenes, I would have bailed out.

1.5/5