MORTDECAI REVIEW

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Mortified! Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Johnny Depp does his damndest to make this dreadfully unfunny farce watchable but frankly my dears, it’s just not good enough or funny enough.

If you were a little reluctant about seeing this after viewing the trailers, I’m sorry to say it is just as bad as you think.

I’ve always rated Depp and thought even if the film is a little drab, he can certainly lift it off the ground. Dark Shadows, I’m looking at you.

BUT it doesn’t help that his character is so annoying. On paper, I’m sure he was supposed to come off as Inspector Clousseau as an art dealer BUT boy, oh, boy, the end result . . .

I felt just as rotten as Gwyneth Paltrow did kissing Mortdecai’s moustache.

The plot was nothing more than a silly excuse to go across the world for some silly escapades. The con got a little baffling but it all came to a predictable and unfunny conclusion.

Depp pulling faces and waffling in his posh toff voice just wasn’t enough. Initially I couldn’t stand the bloke but by the end he had just about won me over.

I felt Depp had to overact just to get some sort of titter. For every good one liner (My file was fat and well-handled like a Welsh barmaid), there were dozens that dropped faster than a lead balloon.

Paul Bettany did his best as Mortdecai’s muscle and man servant Jock but he can’t pull off the thug role. He certainly looked the part BUT doing a cockney accent that would make even the big daddy himself Ray Winstone cringe says it all.

Sorry, Jarvis but you came off as a mug.

There was some camaraderie between him and Depp and there were a few moments in which I felt a smile crack behind my cynical demeanour.

I felt that Depp had to rely on former impressions to get a laugh. A scene in which Jock is man-handling a drunk Mortdecai felt like nothing more than Captain Jack Sparrow waffling away. It reeked of desperation.

The action sequences were incredibly lacklustre. The relentless CGI in a simple car chase sequence was very off-putting considering all the other stunt work was done by proper stunt men. Hardly memorable.

I think the only fight sequence that got my attention was when Mortdecai set Jock’s hands alight and he beat up a group of angry henchmen with fists of fire! Ridiculously OTT but impressive.

This might have fared better as a cartoon series on the telly BUT as a high rolling Hollywood crime caper? No, darling.

NOT even Ewan McGregor could get things going.

The brewing rivalry between his character Chief Inspector Martland and Mortdecai had potential BUT it was all too tame and playful to amount to anything good . . . or interesting for that matter.

The odd spot of banter but no real friction.

Martland as the lovesick puppy desperate to hump Paltrow’s leg had the odd giggle BUT again was hardly that entertaining.

The recurring joke about Mortdecai’s moustache was so-so at best.

I think the only time I laughed at this irritating gag was the bedroom scene with his beloved, Johanna (Paltrow).

Paltrow and Depp had some good chemistry and made this scene a little more bearable with some snappy dialogue. Her gag reflex every time she touches his tash was okay the first time.

BUT his sympathetic gag reflex and the constant repetition of said gag. No, no, no!

Bar one unexpected punch line, “You look like you have a vagina on your face!”

I felt that writer Eric Aronson was desperately setting up red herrings just to get Paltrow back into the film. Breaking up the unfunny film with more unfunny subplots that led nowhere.

A scene with the Duke (Michael Byrne) was terrible. If it was meant to be a cheeky pop at the Duke of Edinbrugh, it failed.

Going on about how damned attractive Paltrow was. I usually admire the alluring actress but her character Johanna was so bland and to be honest Paltrow was looking eerily thin.

The 45 minute marker in which Depp reaches America and has his first experience in a hotel actually made me laugh a couple of times.

And things seemed to perk up and gel a bit better but it really couldn’t save itself from the damage of a poor first half.

The recurring gag of Jock sleeping around was lazy but did get the odd chortle.

BUT the hit and miss gag ratio wasn’t helped by the flat supporting cast; Jeff Goldblum had the easiest role going in a highly unmemorable and unnecessary appearance. Olivia Munn may have looked stunning (Zuts Alor!) BUT her character (apart from being an attractive nymphomaniac) was pretty bland.

The legendary Paul Whitehouse made more of an impression in his 2 minute cameo as the maniacal mechanic Spinoza.

There’s the odd titter to be had but with the cast and the potential it promised, it fell dreadfully short as did my patience.

Peter Sellers had a natural flair to the role. He made Clousseau seem real. The trips, the goofs. Depp unfortunately seemed to take lessons from Steve Martin. Ridiculously out of depth, OTT and unfunny.

David Koepp may have penned some of the iconic movies of the last two decades; Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible and Spiderman BUT let’s not forget he also gave us Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and now this . . .

Sorry, Mr Depp. This is a rather horrid stain on an impeccable filmography. Better luck next time, old bean.

2/5

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FOXCATCHER REVIEW

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Tough, slow and frustrating. I’d rather watch “What Did The Fox Say?” for two hours than endure this over-hyped ensemble piece again.

Watching this film made me feel like I had been in a wrestling match. Tired, achy, drained and frustrated.

When I first saw the trailers, I had high hopes. I went in ready to see a trio of talented actors take on what was potentially a game changer.

To be honest, it still was BUT the hype really did hinder!

So what’s it all about? The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team (Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum) joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont (Carrell) as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul – a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.

Channing Tatum was very good as Mark Schultz. It has been a strange but interesting transition for the actor. I remember watching Fighting and thinking to myself, “Why is everyone going on about this guy?” An inaudible accent. A slacker posture. Was he trying to do a really bad Stallone impression? Is this a joke?

BUT he has progressed so far from that. Appearing in a range of films from Side Effects to 22 Jump Street. And I have had to eat my words. The make-up and prosthetics certainly changed his face but Tatum embraces the character perfectly.

His posture. His caveman dragging of the heels. Little things that make a big difference.

You feel for Schultz as he attempts to escape from living in his brother’s shadow. Feeding off what little scraps his brother David gives him. Metaphorically, of course. Giving him school visits that he doesn’t want to do, etc.

The sparring sequence was a perfect example of the brewing tension between the two brothers. A simple training exercise soon becomes a full-on brawl. Subtly, slow burning but tense. I expected more of this.

Instead, I just got slow, slow, slow!

Mark Ruffalo was fantastic but I’ve always rated him as an actor and felt he had that versatility. There wasn’t enough of him and I can see why he has earned that Best Supporting nod. He lifts every scene he is in and works really well with Tatum.

Steve Carrell was fantastic. The prosthetic certainly added to his creepy demeanour but his performance made all the difference. I couldn’t believe it was him. His presence haunts every frame.

Carrell has certainly proved that he can adapt and adapt well. If Carrell can keep this up, it will be a while before he returns to the comedy circuit.

If Norman Bates was a multimillionaire wrestling coach, then you would have an accurate depiction of duPont. Desperately seeking fame from his wrestling team and recognition from his reclusive mother.

Vanessa Redgrave was good in the small part she had. Sienna Miller . . . well, she had the easiest gig going. Anyone could have played her to deliver the three unmemorable lines of dialogue.

I didn’t even realise until the end of the film that Anthony Michael Hall (The Breakfast Club) was DuPont’s bodyguard.

It really is a SLOW burner. If you have the patience then you may be rewarded. BUT for me, the reward just wasn’t enough for the 129 minute length.

I’m prepared to endure with a film but the journey should be worth it. I could feel my eyes wondering to the little hands on my watch.

The slow talking, the endless staring and fox catching montages. I can understand the point of the imagery and the commentary BUT it seemed to go on.

Tatum’s breakdown was an unexpected but brilliantly acted scene. The pent up aggression released on one poor hotel room.

To be honest, I was a little lost in what Bennett Miller was trying to do with Foxcatcher. In one instance it felt like he was trying to make a commentary on the decaying ideal of the American dream; greed, money and power.

BUT on the other hand, it seemed like an examination but on who? The paranoid mummy’s boy millionaire? The fame seeking wrestler? His profit driven brother?

Schultz’s descent into darkness was a mixed bag. Mind-numbingly droll in one instant, tense and strange the next. The hold that duPont held over him was creepy. His play thing. A new toy.

The impromptu wrestling sessions in the middle of the night. DuPont’s constant craving for appraisal. A relentlessly long scene in which duPont keeps making Schultz pronounce the same phrase over and over to get it right was a perfect example of his relentless ego BUT it also bored the hell out of me.

I got it in 10 seconds NOT 10 minutes! “Philanthropist, philateler and ornithologist, Philanthropist, philateler and ornithologist” again and again.

It didn’t help that the film was about wrestling. The fight sequences were okay BUT if they haven’t got The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin or a steel chair then it’s going to be a little flat (What?).

The last 20 minutes I did find myself more engaged as the tension mounted. A cat and mouse game for Schultz’s sanity finally turned the heat up on this slow cooker. The closing moments finally got my attention but was it too little, too late?

This could have been cut by 30-45 minutes and been just as effective for it. The finale may have been shocking and sombre viewing BUT it just wasn’t enough.

Miller was responsible for Capote. A film I felt was incredibly overhyped. Hoffmann was outstanding but the film itself just wavered along. Overlong and overhyped. (See where I’m going).

Bennett Miller certainly delivered a story of jealousy, paranoia and greed with some fantastic performances that justify their Oscar nominations BUT pace, tension and story felt like mere afterthoughts.

2.5/5

Take it away, Hercules!

WILD REVIEW

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Did Reese Witherspoon’s performance drive me wild with praise or RAGE?

The director of Dallas Buyers Club returns with another Oscar contender but can lightning strike twice?

Right, enough questions.

Not bad at all.

I had mixed feelings about Reese Witherspoon. I mean, Legally Blonde? No, no, no.

That was until her Oscar winning turn in Walk The Line. A complete transformation. And she delivers yet again with another solid performance.

So what’s it all about? Wild is basically a chronicle of one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike (Short and sweet. Hey, no spoilers here).

Jean-Marc Vallee takes on another biopic but this time it just doesn’t quite feel as polished off as Dallas Buyers Club.

Understandably, they are completely different films BUT I found DBC had a lot more story and depth. This is a certainly an engaging if slow burning journey of one woman trying to find herself BUT it just doesn’t quite reach the heights that you expect.

Yves Belanger returns to deliver a visual masterpiece. The cinematography really made use of the locations.  A beautiful backdrop full of life and colour in one shot, desolate and dreary the next.

Witherspoon has more than enough screen presence to keep the film going. Crucial when she’s the main character that we are following for the next two hours!

The film flicks back and forth through Cheryl Strayed’s past as she embarks on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Vallee and Hornby cleverly juxtapose the flashbacks with the past and present well. Revealing Strayed’s demons and darker moments as the journey becomes more strenuous. The challenge continuing to test her by the day.

The inner monologues from Strayed were a nice touch. Some of her one liners were quite funny; “Morning. Cold mush. Afternoon. Cold mush. Evening. Cold mush. I love cold mush.”

Her initial struggle was quite humourous for any amateur hiker (*Cough* Me* Cough*). Wrestling with her monster backpack, failing to set up her tent, buying the wrong gas canister for her cooker.

The pace worked for the majority of the film as Strayed dealt with the ever-changing temperatures; searing heat in the desert to the sub-zero temperatures of the snowfall that was never supposed to hit.

There were some interesting revelations. Some that did surprise me. Others you could suss. As Cheryl delved further into the wild, you couldn’t help but feel an air of unease and suspense. The wildlife creeping in the dark.

The paranoia of the unknown made for a funny incident involving a caterpillar and a sleeping bag. BUT it also made for a tense one. A pair of hunters make an unpleasant and unwelcome appearance.

I loved some of the metaphorical imagery. The fact Cheryl is literally standing in the middle of a crossroads as she debates hitching a ride all the way back home was hardly subtle but nicely done.

The CGI fox was a little irritating. I mean, it was a nice moment when it first appeared but when it kept popping up, it was irritating and the CGI seemed to get worse.

Strayed certainly meets a strange bunch of characters. The only problem is that they aren’t quite as memorable as you hope them to be.

I actually had to do a quick recap by looking at the cast list. A shame.

Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom) was very good as Paul (Cheryl’s estranged partner). I thought Sadoksi and Witherspoon had great chemistry. It would have been nice to see more of their relationship. I mean the flashbacks zip through the life cycle of the relationship quite well but a little too quickly for my liking.

Laura Dern did a good performance as Strayed’s mum, Bobbi but Oscar worthy? I’m not so sure.

She certainly played the part well and I felt for her character in the small flashbacks she appeared in BUT then again let’s not forget that Dame Judi Dench won Best Supporting Actress for Shakespeare in Love and she was only in that for 8 minutes!

However, there was one scene in which Bobbi just breaks down after hiding behind her scatty, smiley mask for so long and Dern was outstanding. But I wanted more. There just wasn’t enough of that in the film for me.

The more I thought about the story line and the characters Strayed came across, it reminded me a little too much of Sean Penn’s brilliant travel biopic (coincidentally titled) Into the Wild. The beautiful landscapes, the flashbacks, a likeable lead (in Emile Hirsch).

I mean, even the whole “meeting different people who share their stories” spiel bared a striking resemblance (but with more memorable characters). If you were unlucky not to see this; first go see it and second, Wild may fare a bit better for you than it did for me.

BUT to those who have seen the Penn pic, you may find it hard not to make comparisons which Wild falls just a little bit short.

My main qualm about the film was that despite dipping in pace, it just ended so abruptly.

A quick quote and a summary of what happened next. That’s it?! We didn’t even get to see Strayed finish the trail properly.

I just felt after all that time, it would have been nice to have a few more minutes flashing through Strayed’s life after this spiritual journey to let it come full circle.

I won’t spoil anything but as Strayed explains her life in the closing speech, I couldn’t help but notice a massive continuity error with the time frame in which the events leading up and after her trail were supposed to have happened. It just didn’t add up.

It was a bum note on a well acted and highly watchable drama.

Witherspoon certainly does enough to warrant that Oscar nod but Best Actress? I don’t know.

But if you want a well acted spiritual journey flick to break up the hum drum heading our way, then invest.

3/5

AMERICAN SNIPER REVIEW

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Has Bradley Cooper got that Oscar in his sights? Only one way to find out . . .

Clint Eastwood delivers a riveting, if overlong, war biopic on the most lethal sniper in US history.

Bradley Cooper in one word. Fantastic.

I have been impressed by his versatility and range. To be able to go from The Hangover to American Hustle. His performances continue to surprise. As does this one.

The 132 minute length does test you a little in parts but every time I felt my eyes wandering, there was a revelation or a battle sequence to bring me back into the action.

It’s not perfect by any means BUT certainly one of the better ones.

The cinematography by Tom Stern (a regular Eastwood stalwart) provided a grainy murkiness to the Iraqi war zone. The panning shots as we followed the troops through the labyrinthine cityscape (now an open battlefield) got me right in the thick of it.

I couldn’t believe how much Cooper looked like Chris Kyle. Bulking up for the role and delivering a dusky drawl. A deserved nomination.

A simple cowboy who decided one day to become a SEAL. There were moments where I felt the whole ‘Murica spiel was a little schmaltzy for me BUT hey, that’s the cynic talking. I respect the man for his patriotism and that’s what he was. A patriot. He wanted to fight for his country. People have fought for less. So make of that what you will.

It didn’t spoil or hamper the film for me. The first act zipped along quite well. The opening certainly grabs your attention with Kyle having to make a serious judgement call involving a young boy and a suspected weapon.

It flicks back and forth showing his life as a young boy, his days as a cowboy and his SEALs training. The training montage was covered extensively in the opening of Lone Survivor BUT it was good to see the cast go through the process.

To be honest, I was happy to see more of this. It zipped along a little too quickly. It didn’t really put Kyle’s father in the best light. A stern man who wants his sons to be sheepdogs NOT wolves. Yeah, that didn’t make sense to me in the film. Nothing a good belting won’t straighten out.

It certainly gave you a sense of the man Kyle would become but maybe a little bit more depth would have been better.

The sniper sequences were tense and riveting. Seeing it through the POV of Kyle’s scope was harrowing and brutal. Hardly original to the Call of Duty nuts but effective.

There were moments of horror and suspense. It certainly plays the ethics card. Split second decisions that could save or kill the unit. Decisions I couldn’t even imagine making. Some heart in mouth stuff.

The sandstorm sequence was exhilarating. Some would argue that it was shot terribly but that’s kind of the point. You couldn’t see a thing. You couldn’t tell who was your enemy and in an ambush?! Words fail me.

I felt Eastwood spent a little too much time on the unit dynamic with a supporting cast that for a majority of the time either kept changing or were hardly that memorable. This was where marks got knocked down. I know this is Kyle’s story but there aren’t many who get a look in, including his own wife.

Sienna Miller was very good as Taya Kyle. She had great chemistry with Cooper. I never rated Miller’s past roles; the sex pot. But we got to see some actual acting from the gal. She nailed the accent and played it really well. I would have liked to see more of her. (No, not like that. Acting wise. Honest!)

I wanted more of the family dynamic. The last act does focus on that which certainly hits home by the closing minutes. BUT (for example) I wanted a little more explanation on Kyle’s brother, Jeff. Someone who we followed, with Chris, for a good 30-40 minutes of the film who then disappears without a real reason.

You get a general idea of what happened by how Jeff acts after his first tour in Iraq BUT it would have been nice to see him again, a passing comment OR at least a mention in the closing credits.

You can see Kyle’s dedication soon become an obsession. The more tours he embarks on, the harder the strain on his family. It certainly doesn’t paint Kyle as the all American patriot. Intent on catching The Butcher (Mido Hamada) and a (free-running) sniper hell bent on claiming the bounty of the legendary sniper felt like a morbid competition.

I’m a little concerned that Hamada and Navid Negahban (Homeland) have become typecast in the terrorist roles. They both play them so well but still . . .

Kyle’s re-adjustment into civilian life was heartbreaking. Every little sound keeping him on edge. His inability to cope. It was captured well and was subtle in it’s approach. The legend around him taking its toll.

This is where I became more engrossed. The final 30 minutes unearthed more on the treatment of the returning veteran and allowed for some harrowing statements.

I felt the CGI left a little to be desired. Cooper superimposed on a bull and the deer really stuck out. Also, don’t let the fake baby put you off. If you’re thinking, “What?” and are not aware of this; there is a scene in which Cooper is supposed to be holding his daughter and it is the worst fake baby I’ve seen. BUT don’t let this little plastic prop spoil what was a well acted scene.

This may not be the best war film. It’s tough not to compare it to so many other classics BUT it hooked me for the majority of the time (A challenge in itself) and by the closing minutes it got to me. I don’t want to spoil the film too much because I want people to see this.

BUT now, I find my loyalties torn on the Best Actor category now. I have to agree after seeing the majority of the Oscar nominated pics (Whiplash this week! EXCITED!) that the right people have been chosen this time around (Tatum should have got a nod BUT that’s another review 😉

With all the Oscar excitement, Cooper has to ask himself one thing. Does he feel lucky? Well . . .

If my pick loses, then I wouldn’t complain if Cooper took his place.

A sterling performance from a fantastic actor and an engaging, if flawed, biopic makes this one worth taking a shot.

3.5/5

THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH REVIEW

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Looks like the franchise died before it could even begin.

This hollow (but occasionally jumpy) sequel feels like nothing more than a ghost of it’s predecessor.

As the film came to a close, I had a horrible feeling. Not one of unease or relief but one of disappointment.

Now, I have never seen the theatrical production of the Woman in Black but have been told endlessly to invest (Which I shall!) but I did see the first feature installment.

It was Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Potter role and was hyped as the must-see horror film of the year. Challenge accepted. And to my surprise, both were actually very good. Tense, atmospheric with a solid British cast and it even managed to make me jump quite a few times.

A success. Quite rightly so. Which meant one thing. A sequel, of course!

So here we are. Dear, oh, dear.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. The opening showed promise. The Eel Marsh house in all it’s eery and (terribly grainy) detail. A heart beating as the camera pans closer and closer. Creepy stuff.

The beats juxtaposed with the air raid bombing was a clever technique. Director Tom Harper didn’t overdo his handling of the Blitz. The panoramic view of the damage of the Blitz on London was subtle but harrowing.

The bombing quickly established a likeable lead in Phoebe Fox. I expect to see more from her. The characters were quickly introduced and sent on their way in one nice package.

I liked the concept of the evacuees escaping to the countryside. That’s what did happen and it made the whole revisit to the manor that much more believable. Plus it allowed for a few more interesting things to happen. I say a few. One thing involving a dummy airfield.

Fox was a strong character and I actually cared for her. Which always helps. A lot of horror films fail to tackle this issue which makes it harder for you to get caught up in the scares. Even if the scares are pretty tame, you still need to care what happens to the characters.

Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders. A series I strongly recommend) played the stern headmistress as well as she could. Her character Jean Hogg felt too much like a stereotype. Don’t get me wrong, women were strong during the war.

But she seemed a little lifeless behind her “I am hard because I have to be. We are in a war” face. I can relate to it certainly but there wasn’t much else to her sour faced demeanour.

And that was a major problem this time around. Even though the sequel felt like a pale imitation of the first, the characters also felt like ghosts of themselves.

Jeremy Irvine (War Horse/The Railway Man) was incredibly stocky and bland. It was only near the end of the film in which the inevitable fling heated up and some chemistry finally occurred that I found myself interested.

There were only three of the children that got moments to shine. The rest . . . Well, frankly. They didn’t need a class of them. Not even red herrings for the dark menace. I mean, lady.

Oaklee Pendergast (Real name. I know, right) was excellent as Edward Lee, a pupil orphaned by the Blitz. He played the role well and brought the relationship between Fox’s Miss Parkin and Lee to the fore.

George Steel’s cinematography was terrible. Normally I commend an attribute but it was all too grainy and dark. I couldn’t see a thing. In certain scenes, it added to the tension. In others, I couldn’t even see where Parkins was going in the derelict village.

It made it all look so painfully dull. I understand that it was the Blackout and the war time BUT I couldn’t see the demon doing her thing!

There were good portions where the tension and atmosphere built things up well. BUT a majority of the time to no avail.

Don’t get me wrong. There were a couple of jumpy bits that got me pretending that there was something wrong with my chair as to why I moved so frantically.

BUT at the same time, I felt the film had to rely on incredibly loud music to get you to jump. I don’t have a cinema sound system at home and I’m sure if (IF) I watched this again, it wouldn’t have half the impact.

It also relied on the original gags to get your pulses racing. The window, the rocking chair, the noose. All managed to get me twitching and twerking (No, not that twerking) again but it felt a little lazy. Relying on all the things that made the first film so good and not building on or re-working it in any capacity.

Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders/Storage 24) did his best to deliver as the creepy blind hermit, Jacob. For some bizarre reason, he really doesn’t want you to look at him. For those who have seen it, you’ll know what I mean.

Adrian Rawlins (James Potter from the HP movies) as the irritable Dr Rhodes had potential but didn’t really go anywhere or . . . come back for that matter.

I had to get a Potter reference in there somewhere. To be honest, I was waiting for Radcliffe to float in and scream, “EXPECTO PATRONUM!” just to get this dull, dreary flick going.

It had a faint whiff of The Others with The Ring BUT it just didn’t reach the heights you’d expect and it all finishes so flatly and predictably that I felt a little miffed. Putting it mildly.

Okay at a push. And that is only because I have seen so many terrible horror movies the last few months that this manages to trump over them. BUT that wasn’t necessarily a tough barrier to break into.

Atmospheric in parts. The odd jumpy moment. BUT it fails to capture the fear, the characters or the gusto that made the first film so good. I fear though that there may be another on the way. If so, whoever takes it on make sure not to slap any old thing together or else that will face an exorcism like this one!

2.5/5

ANNIE REVIEW

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I think I’m going to like it here. Well, I didn’t like this.

A needless remake of a classic musical. OTT, ridiculously cheesy and to make it all worse, it was just rubbish.

From the opening musical number with the sassy Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) making all the class clap and stomp in tune (The front row the rich, the rest of the class poor) I was cringing. I believe a face palm may have occurred.

Really, Hollywood? An urban take on Annie. On paper, I thought why not? There hasn’t been one BUT rehashing the classics badly with auto-tune? This could have been an opportunity to make a statement on foster care or the social care system under the veil of song but no, no, no.

A poor rehashing of the same old story line that felt even more dated and hammy than the original.

The music wasn’t bad but the “Hard Knock Life” remixed with “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” didn’t do it for me. I felt the choice of Hard Knock Life was a little lazy considering one (of a long list) of the producers was Jay Z.

The whole spring cleaning routine to it was choreographed well but it just didn’t work. “The City’s Yours” sung by Jamie Foxx and “Opportunity” by Wallis were very good.

I did warm up to Wallis by the end but I found her a little annoying and too headstrong for my liking. Look at me, I sound like an old man. But something just didn’t sit right until she was paired up with Foxx. They worked well together and made the predictable cheesy relationship a little more bearable.

Foxx delivered on the singing. Of course, he would. The man won an Oscar for Ray BUT his character Will Stacks was almost a caricature. A deluded politician out of touch with the people.

Hardly original but guzzling hand sanitizer after touching and kissing a few voters? Spitting food at the homeless? Too OTT for my liking.

The auto-tuning video of said food flinging incident did get a chuckle.

Cameron Diaz overacted to the max. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a musical but I couldn’t take her seriously as the volatile foster parent, Hannigan. I winced every time she came on wailing at the kids.

The conviction wasn’t there and she annoyed the hell out of me. That was until she sang. When she first started, I thought “Bloody hell” (Well there might have been a few other choice words) but as the song carried on, her voice got better.

And credit where it’s due. She hadn’t got a bad singing voice. One actress I wouldn’t have minded hearing sing a little more was Rose Byrne. In the scenes she supported, she had a nice voice.

I would have preferred to hear more of that than her long winded stereotypical Oxford talk about being a workaholic and having no friends. That was irritating.

Look, I know musicals are always exaggerated and in your face BUT normally you can switch off and be immersed in it. And that is because as much as the songs stand out, the characters do too but I felt they strung any old cliched character together and just thought “It’s a musical, they’ll love it”.

Let’s not forget Glee is going. The musicals losing their magic once again.

There were watchable parts and the pace zipped along for its two hour length. You could tell the cast were having fun and there were scenes where you got caught up in it NOT just poking fun at it.

The cast choices surprised me. They sung very well even if the reworkings were a little hit and miss. I think I’m Going To Like It Here wasn’t bad, bar Stephanie Kurtzuba’s ridiculous impromptu social worker performance. She did my nut in.

The cameos were a little random. Patricia Clarkson (The Maze Runner) as a focus group member suffering bad side effects after using one of Stack’s phones fell flat on it’s backside. Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje (Mr Echo from Lost) was nothing more than a smiling chauffeur. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

David Zayas (Dexter) didn’t do too bad with his flower shop mope role with a vendetta against the powers that be. Michael J. Fox popping up in a satirical PR campaign segment was a clever touch.

A mermaid movie premiere that ripped off Twilight involving Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher and Rihanna wasn’t bad. It certainly poked fun at the guff that makes money these days.

BUT the rest of the actual movie was just like it!

Bobby Cannavale was on scene stealing form until the last 15 minutes of the movie. Boardwalk Empire’s Gyp Rosetti singing and dancing?! Madness. His song and dance number with Diaz did leave a little to be desired.

But the whole PR campaign in which they used Annie as a marketing tool was a good little bit of satire. Shame there wasn’t more of that to make up for the lifeless characters. Cannavale’s ruthless PR executive certainly kept things moving.

Some of his one liners were spot on; “There have been worst politicians. I know. I got them elected. Schwarzenegger, Kim Jong-Il, that blood diamond guy”. It got one of a few chuckles.

The story was weak. Little orphan looking for parents that left her. Befriending a man out of touch and out of love. Finding each other. Yawnnn.

Plus the plot holes were terrible. Annie sings about the note left by her parents. BUT then later on, reveals she can’t read?! What?!

Granted. Someone could have told her what it said. It would have been more of a twist if the note actually said something else. OR if all the sub-plotting and twists weren’t revealed in song. Seriously you knew everything that was about to happen. Would have been nice to have a little mystery.

Still would have been predictable BUT something.

The film ended so frantically and cheesily that I was shaking my head. All logic out the window for a racy finish. It was stupid. BUT no worries. Throw in some schmaltzy dialogue and a few jazz hands and everything will be okay.

Shudder.

It will be a while before the sun will come out on messy musicals like this. Not a complete write off. There will be enough for the little ‘uns and the hardcore musical maniacs who are not deterred by this review. Sorry, it’s a no from me.

2/5

EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS REVIEW

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-Edgerton

Exoduzzzzz. Basically the Dark Prince of Egypt. No singing, a whole lot darker and a whole lot longer.  A mess. A beautifully shot one but a mess all the same.

So what’s it all about? (For those who don’t know) The defiant leader Moses (Christian Bale) rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.

Another example of the ever-increasing decline of a great director.

Beautifully shot (with a talented cast) BUT overlong, drawn out and dreadfully dull. The Counsellor, Prometheus and now Exodus.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to take on the role of Moses. Bale brings his gruffly angry gravitas to the role BUT despite his best efforts, his performance was a little underwhelming.

I understand that there has been a backlash against this movie. To be honest, I gave up on Hollywood attempting any accuracy or authenticity on anything. Let alone the Bible.

Apparently, self-tanning solves the whitewashing issue that Hollywood have failed to resolve for the last 50 years.

Bale and Edgerton worked well together and made a good pairing when they got to be in the same scene. Edgerton (Warrior) was an excellent Ramses when he was allowed to act. Can you see where I’m going with this?

The first 30 minutes zipped along and was quite watchable. The scope and design was breathtaking. Captured perfectly by (regular Scott stalwart) Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography.

This time around, Moses is not just an Egyptian prince but a general trained in the art of war. Cue biblical battle sequences . . . for five minutes. The little action we got was delivered through tragically jittery camera work. My eyes struggled to adjust to the 3D and the huge numbers of extras. I couldn’t focus on any one set piece.

The 3D is a waste of time. Apart from a few arrows and blades flying here and there and seeing some teeny tiny seagulls soar above the waves, it barely appears in the 150 minutes and doesn’t justify the extra costs.

The battle sequence soon corrected itself but after that . . . Nothing. We are left with mindless exposition, delivered by stocky characters for another hour and a bit.

John Turturro was probably one of the main supporting characters that made an impression as Egyptian pharaoh Seti.

BUT that was mainly because I thought it was a bit strange that he would play the father figure. He didn’t look any older than the pair. However, I Googled Turturro and discovered he is actually 17 years older than them I don’t normally go on continuity quips but the lumbering pace gave me time to do some research.

Ben Mendelsohn stood out for me more. I couldn’t believe it was him after all the hard man roles in Starred Up and Black Sea. He was very good as the weasly and overtly camp Viceroy Hegep.

Sigourney Weaver, on the other hand, was wasted in her role. She brought her stone faced pallor to the character and maybe had one bitchy moment but apart from that, anyone could have played her! Shame.

As Moses inevitably found out the truth about his upbringing and is exiled for it rather hastily; the film withers away as did my interest.

Agonisingly slow. I really felt like I was stranded in a desert. Waiting for a decent character. A bit of plot. Something. Instead I have Moses wandering about. Slaying a random person here and there (For no reason). Marrying the lovely Maria Valverde. Promising not to leave her. Leaving her to free “his people”. After talking to a burning bush. Come again?

I’m not going to pick at the biblical story too much. The bush always did test me BUT then to have the messenger of God appear in the form of an 11 year old boy named Malak (Isaac Andrews) took the biscuit.

Moses’ conversations with Malak should have been dramatic affairs. Heated debates questioning the morals and ethics behind God’s plan to liberate the slaves. BUT all I got was Batman yelling angrily at a little boy for 20 minutes.

Andrews did his best but he seemed to struggle with some of the bigger chunks of dialogue and didn’t really have the conviction to carry it.

It didn’t help that only Moses can see Malak. So every time Aaron Paul’s Joshua checked on Moses, he could only see Bale losing his rag at a rock. That’s right, Jessie from Breaking Bad. Such a bland character. He nailed the confused slave look well. It was comical.

The plagues certainly got things moving. The visual effects were incredible, especially with the locusts, frogs and crocodiles. Wait, what?

Crocodiles. You read that, right? I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in the bible. It was certainly a visceral and dark moment. The carnage was relentless. The Nile turning into one blood soaked pool. Haunting.

Indira Varma (Game of Thrones) and Ewan Bremner (Trainspotting) played the High Priestess and Expert as well as they could. The fact their characters are given such wonderful titles said it all.

Their theorizing about what made the plagues happen was interesting at first BUT got irritating in an instant.

I felt that Scott (and the cast) went through the motions with the story. I mean at least Darren Aronofsky tried to do something different with Noah. Granted, it didn’t really work and did cause a bit of a stir but it was certainly more interesting than this.

I mean between Bale and Scott, they made Moses appear like a schizophrenic. Talking to inanimate objects one second. Flying off the handle the next. What made me laugh is that the slaves constantly question his leadership and yet when the shit hits the fan, they are screaming for Moses to tell them what to do.

The pace could have been cut down by an hour and been stronger for it. It hasn’t added anything new to the story or re-imagined it in any capacity. Scott didn’t even bother showing Moses unveil the Ten Commandments after all the build up.

The parting of the Red Sea was a visual feast for the eyes. A frenetic finish to a flawed flop.

If there was to be a re-telling of a Bible story, why didn’t Hollywood take on a story that hadn’t had numerous films before it? Numerous films that were much, much better.

God have mercy on this film. The special effects and set pieces were breathtaking but the lifeless characters and mechanical story telling left me yawning.

2.5/5