WILD CARD REVIEW

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I’m losing faith in the Stath.

Well, in his movie choices anyway.

So what’s it all about, san? When a Las Vegas bodyguard (The Stath) with lethal skills and a gambling problem gets in trouble with the mob, he has one last play . . . and it’s all or nothing.

I should have known what to expect when I saw the name Simon West pop up across the silver screen.

At his best, Con Air! One of the most iconic action movies of all time! Why didn’t he put the bunny in the box?

At his worst, Stolen. One of my worst films of 2013. Ironically both involving Nicolas Cage.

West normally has the right balance of cheese with all out action. Silly but fun. While Wild Card, on the other hand, was just terrible. My DISAPPOINTED Kevin Sorbo Hercules video doesn’t even come close to showing my frustration.

A slow opening sequence involving Stath and a little “matchmaking” hustle with the alluring Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) was silly but easy going.

For a minute, I thought it was going to be a little like Better Call Saul. They even had a similar office set up.

Jason Alexander! Good old George Costanza as a Saul Goodman type showed all the potential.

BUT oh no! All he did was introduce the Stath to Michael Angarano’s (Sky High) retarded tweenie gambler.

Leading to an uneven, badly acted and badly written film that failed on everything BUT the violence (The little that there was).

Okay, retarded was a little harsh. Angarano’s dweeby laugh and lead dialogue didn’t help me like his one-dimensional character.

Meanwhile, a more interesting subplot seemed to be emerging as we see Dominik Garcia-Lorrido’s call girl battered, bludgeoned and dumped outside a hospital.

However, before we get to find out the who, why and how? We have to drudge through mindless exposition and pointless sweeping night shots of the Stath driving around Las Vegas.

The cinematography was outstanding. I must commend Shelly Johnson for making this mess worth looking at.

But it didn’t stop me picking at the poor script. Written by William Goldman. A two time Oscar winning screenwriter penned this? (All The President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)

Anne Heche and Hope Davis. Two talented actresses reduced to nothingy supporting roles.

Heche as a waitress. Purpose? To serve the Stath some lemonade and give him a break from talking to himself.

Davis as a card dealer. Purpose? To remind us that the Stath gambles. Go figure. I could tell that by the fact he was gambling!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, I was fed up with listening to Angarano’s insecure rich boy desperately seeking a friend.

However, we finally get back to Garcia-Lorrido. She seems to have inherited her actor father’s deadpan drawl. Yep, lifeless and dull.

She tried to pull off the femme fatale vibe but she didn’t have the conviction.

In between Stath’s babysitting subplot, we have a little vengeance ploy as his services are required to teach a harsh lesson to a deluded mafia monster.

Well, I say monster. More like moper.

Peter Petrelli? What happened? Milo Ventimiglia was such a whiney little nob. I couldn’t stand him. He played the douchebag mafioso well but he was just so irritating and pathetic.

I could understand him being a quivering whimp in one scene as the Stath and Garcia-Lorido dispense some justice with his manhood and some garden shears but otherwise, he lacked the conviction to be taken seriously as a scumbag.

It was such a shame considering the back story that Lorrido built up around him. The detail on what he did to her was gritty and gruesome. And then we see him and he’s an absolute plonker.

The film kept changing in tone and flitting about. Ridiculously silly one moment, brooding and menacing the next. I wasn’t sure what it was trying to be. It failed anyway.

I think the only reprieve for this film was the fight sequences. There weren’t enough but when the Stath did kick off, it was brutal, intense and brilliantly choreographed.

One particular highlight involving Stath using a knife to jam up a hitman’s firing pin.

To be honest, Stath deals with Ventimiglia too easily and we are left watching him gamble his life away.

The gambling scene was ruthless, tense and probably the most suspenseful sequence in the whole film.

However, I expected more of this in the horrendous remake that was The Gambler.

I’m sure Goldman was trying to make Wild Card a philosophical journey of one man’s decent but it was too pretentious, too hammy and just plain terrible.

I mean Stanley Tucci? What was the point of his character?

Donning another bad wig and smirking. With a look that said; “Am I really in this? Is this all they need me for?” A mediator for the mob who didn’t do any proper mediating and was only in the film for two minutes.

Easy money for the Tuc.

The frantic (and forced) fiery finale was manic, violent and everything I expected for the other 90-odd minutes.

Stath does his best to make it watchable and nearly pulls it off. BUT he gambled on the wrong project.

They didn’t even explain his knack for disposing of baddies by flicking cards.

I’m not even going to get into the fact that it’s set during Christmas and was released in March.

Too many questions, not enough action, story or character to keep me quiet, engaged or caring.

1.5/5

STILL ALICE REVIEW

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Julianne Moore’s still got it!

A stand out performance from a talented actress.

I knew it would have to take something special to stop Pike or Jones taking the gold.

A heartrending, emotional drama on a disease that really needs looking at.

A linguistics professor (Julianne Moore) and her family find their bonds tested when she is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

I know Moore’s Oscar win caused a little stir back in the UK. That was mainly because it hadn’t been released yet!

BUT here we are at last . . . and it’s good.

Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland allow for a slow burning piece as we join Alice celebrating her 50th birthday.

It isn’t long before we notice her making little mistakes; answering the wrong question, forgetting words, etc.

At first glance, minor quibbles. Who hasn’t been guilty of mixing up the odd word or forgetting their train of thought?

Innocently playing it down to age, Alice continues her work and enjoying time with her family.

There was a tense atmosphere around the film as the impending diagnosis lingered around the corner.

I don’t want to divulge too much as this is certainly worth a viewing.

Alice soon forgets where she is, people’s names, notes on her presentations. And the initial diagnosis came short and sharp.

Moore was perfect for the role and you really feel for her character as she does everything she can to fight it.

The range of emotions that she encapsulates were brilliant. She goes from defiant to angry, confused to sad in a matter of a few frames. I couldn’t possibly imagine what that would feel like.

Alice is diagnosed with an incredibly rare stand of Alzheimers. (I wasn’t even aware that were a variety of types).

Her mental condition soon deteriorates much faster than she is prepared for. Or even ready to accept.

The original questions that Alice had to answer to test for Alzheimers threw me off. Something as simple as being told to remember a name and an address and being asked later about the details after a conversation was crazy.

The memory tests that Alice gives herself were quite interesting to watch. Writing three words on a chalkboard. Putting a timer on. And going back to write said words felt like a little game. I was trying to remember them as the family drama unfolded.

There was quite a talented cast being involved in the family dynamic; Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart.

Their reactions to Alice’s diagnosis and inevitable deterioration were unexpected. The discovery that the condition can be passed on to your offspring was a daunting prospect. The probability of one of Alice’s children carrying the gene being incredibly high.

Kristen Stewart, where has she been? Still donning the tom boy look and mumbling away, her performance perfectly suited the role of Alice’s younger daughter. She worked well with Moore and you really felt for their relationship.

Despite all that’s going on for Alice, she is still concerned for her daughter’s carefree attitude and refusal to acting her failing acting career. Mothers never stop caring. No matter what.

Kate Bosworth was good as her snobby older daughter. An early revelation certainly spiked the tension BUT as the film progressed, her character seemed to disappear into the background.

Alec Baldwin didn’t seem to be in this as much as I thought. Obviously, the film was always going to be revolved around Alice BUT his constant disappearing and reappearing was a little irritating. However, there was a reason for this which does lead to some sombre viewing.

Despite a stellar performance on a serious condition and for all the hype, I felt the film left me wanting.

I don’t think it helped that the ending was quite odd. I could see what the writers were trying to do BUT it came off a little abrupt and long at the tooth with Kristen Stewart mumbling away about looking down from the sky to her bemused mother.

It just seemed a little pretentious and fizzled out what had been an engaging story of one woman’s struggle.

BUT it is still heartbreaking, dramatic and tough to watch. A scene involving a video message from a recently diagnosed Alice to an ailing ageing Alice certainly hit home.

Alzheimer’s Disease still needs to be looked into and I’m glad that films like these are getting made. The only other film that I could recall was the underrated Away From Her with Julie Christie.

This could happen to anyone. Worth a watch.

3/5

As a little side note for any Walking Dead fans; Seth Gilliam plays yet another pointless role. Yes! Even more useless than Father Gabriel Stokes. I know. I didn’t think it was possible.

X + Y REVIEW

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X + Y = One good film + one happy film goer.

Heartwarming, engaging and brilliantly acted. Dare I say it? This gets a 4 from me.

I nearly missed this little gem as it had only a week release at my local (Cinema NOT pub).

What’s it about? A socially awkward teenage math prodigy (Asa Butterfield) finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad.

Our story follows a gifted and special young boy named Nathan (That’s my name!) who is diagnosed with autism. His unique preference for patterns soon develops an interest in mathematics leading to a . . . brilliant film.

Director Morgan Matthews and writer James Graham allow the film to move at a slow burning pace as we see Nathan receive his diagnosis. Edward Baker-Close plays young Nathan very well. His outlook and way of thinking makes him appear abrupt and quite blunt.

His honesty not necessarily coming out in the right way and at the right person.

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) was superb as Nathan’s mother, Julie. Struggling to understand the condition and failing to interact with him in the right way was hard viewing. Innocently asking a young Nathan if she could help with his homework. He looks up at her and simply replies, “You wouldn’t understand. You’re not clever enough”.

Nathan’s autism may only be a particular type but it soon turns him into a social outcast.

Martin McCann (’71) was very good as Nathan’s father. His patience and understanding of Nathan allowed the news to be more of a gift than a curse. However, it isn’t long before an unexpected tragedy comes along.

The story moves forward to a teenage Nathan. Asa Butterfield (Hugo) was excellent. His mannerisms and blunt delivery were well done. You really felt for the lad but also wished he couldn’t be so rude to his mother.

The fact he won’t allow Julie to touch him or even hold her hand was heartbreaking.

Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) was brilliant as Mr Humphreys. An embittered maths teacher donning a cane and popping pills like sweets. Sound familiar?

Spall’s characters does bear a striking resemblance to that of House. His brash comments, deflated ego, bemused attitude.

However, there is a sadness behind Humphreys as we discover he is battling with multiple sclerosis.

His pairing with Nathan was like something out of the Odd Couple. Nathan’s brutally honest comments to Humphreys’ sarcastic and smart ass outlook.

When the pair first meet, Nathan asks, “Why do you walk funny?”. Humphreys’ response; “Why are you so weird?”

Comical but endearing. Humphreys’ failed Olympiad past soon becomes a crucial tool to help Nathan and it isn’t long before the pair work together on achieving the impossible.

Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan) was amusing as the highly competitive and deluded UK team Olympiad leader. Constantly driving the children and desperate to beat China in any capacity (Even jogging and cooking shrimp).

In between training for the Olympiad and dealing with new surroundings, Nathan strikes another friendship with a Chinese Olympiad, Zhang Mei.

An impressive debut performance from Jo Yang. She had good chemistry with Butterfield and the pair are adorable together.

It was brilliantly handled and delicately deals with Nathan’s autism perfectly. From his handling of social situations to how he perceives certain colours and light.

Jake Davies (Cyberbully) was excellent as Luke; a fellow Olympiad who also has autism.

It was an interesting and harrowing comparison showing the different scales of the autism spectrum.

Luke’s attempts at interaction were harsh viewing. Scornful and arrogant, one moment. Desperate to make friends, the next.

Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game) played the smug bully Isaac well. His constant put downs on Luke were all too realistic. A silly boy who is aware of his condition but still does everything to throw obstacles in Luke’s path.

The mathematics get a little mind-numbing BUT luckily the focus is always on the characters.

I just wished a little more time was spent on Humphreys’ story line. His battle with his painkiller addiction and a possible blossoming romance made for good viewing in between Nathan’s new ventures.

We got to see him fight depression but also his acceptance of MS. As the film came to a close, I felt his sub plot was left a little too open. You generally get the idea on how it was going to unfold. BUT two more minutes, just to round it all off, would have been a bit better.

Apart from that little niggle and the pace slightly dipping in the odd part, I was engrossed, engaged and interested.

The closing moments, dare I admit it, had a little tear in the eye. Someone must have sprayed something in the cinema.

It’s charming, funny, endearing and brilliantly acted.

A perfect formula for any film and certainly worth your time.

4/5

THE WORST FILMS OF 2014 – PART TWO

Did you walk out of a film feeling angry, disappointed, baffled, confused?

Did you walk out of a film for that matter?

Did you sit in your car (or at home) reeling? Questioning, debating, pondering how on Earth it even got through the pitching process?

Then, welcome.

I think I’ve already compiled my worst films of 2015 which doesn’t bode well for the year that lies ahead.

BUT let’s (finally) review the worst films of 2014!

My criteria; Basically films that destroyed all excitement and anticipation or failed to deliver anything (Acting, talent, story, suspense, a movie).

Films that made me cry a little, scream with RAGE or just say, “I don’t think I’m going to bother anymore” . . . With the cinema (Woah, let’s not get too down now).

So I’ve already provided PART ONE from 20-11. NOW, it’s finally time for PART TWO with 10 – 1

SCALE: 10 DISAPPOINTED! – 1 WTF!

I’ll stick a few comments with each crappy film title accordingly. Enjoy . . . OR NOT. In fact, you won’t with these 😦

 

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10. WALKING WITH DINOSAURS: THE 3D MOVIE

I know, it’s a kid’s movie. BUT the dino facts were so patronising and stupid that it put me in a rage! I mean, come on! Kids can read. BUT the slow TRI-CER-A-T-OPS pronunciation was infuriating.

Plus they interrupted any interesting development in the dull by the numbers story line. The effects were good BUT the 3D? What 3D?

Not even John Lequizamo’s vocal work could save the day. In fact he annoyed the hell out of me. A talking crow narrating the history of the dinosaurs to a family?

LOGIC?! It just didn’t help the main character grated against me and the story was so predictable and corny that you lost interest.

The purpose of a family movie is to appeal . . . to a family. I don’t even think the little ‘uns would be fussed about watching this one.

Go watch the vastly superior award winning BBC documentary series instead!

 

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9. THE HARRY HILL MOVIE

Harry Hill making a movie? Any good? There’s only one way to find out?

NO! Hill tries to incorporate his TV Burp format to the big screen with a silly premise about taking his ill hamster to Blackpool.

Johnny Vegas does his best to get a chuckle as Abu the hamster. Abu? Wait. Isn’t that the name of another furry sidekick? Hmmm . . .

It was a shame with the talent at Hill’s disposal. Julie Walters, Matt Lucas, Jim Broadbent . . . Will from Inbetweeners.

For every good gag, Hill manages to balance it with a dozen duds.

It’s surreal, stupid and a mess to boot. I felt like I was on something watching it. Maybe I should have to try and understand how Hill thought this would be entertaining.

 

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8. DEVIL’S DUE

Another regurgitated, predictable, lazy, teen horror movie that desperately attempts to reap from the Paranormal Activity hype.

Paranormal Activity was a treat, an actual creepy, tension builder, that recreated and improved what the overrated handy-cam trend setter The Blair Witch Project set out.

A couple go on an exotic Brazilian honeymoon. They get lost. Get drunk. Suspicious taxi driver recommends strange place. Takes them before they can say, “Wait a minute”. And that last drink, oh that inevitable last drink. Instead of passing out on the bathroom floor, poor Sam gets impregnated by a Satanic cult.

The main issue is that the writers and producers either have never seen Rosemary’s Baby and inadvertently delivered a poor modern day rehash of it or they knew what they were doing which is even more tragic.

However, too many movies have popped their ugly heads out from this craze and I pray that this be the last but unfortunately the true horror is that it won’t be. (Just keep scrolling)

 

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7. THE LAST DAYS ON MARS

The . . . last film they should do about Mars. Oh my days. Shambolic. The pain endured watching this space turd was like having a xenomorph burst out of my chest and that still would have been more entertaining than this drivel.

Slow, tension less, shoddily acted, more holes than a sponge. This film should be jettisoned into space. Okay, rant over. Better? Better.

It is such a shame that an underrated cast have the opportunity to shine in a perfect B movie-esque vehicle and miss at every angle.

They could have done a shot for shot remake of Alien and they still would have messed it up.

If it wasn’t for the fact it was funded by the BFI and Irish Film Board, this definitely wouldn’t have made it to the big screen and rightly so. The fact it only featured at my cinema for five days says it all.

Also the film is called Last Days on Mars and yet when we join them, they are 19 hours away from going home so surely THE LAST DAY ON MARS. Couldn’t even get the title right.

 

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6. NATIVITY 3: DUDE WHERE’S MY DONKEY?!

Ho, ho, ho – horrible!

From the moment the first badly mimed, badly choreographed and terribly out of sync flash mob started busting shapes, I knew I was in for it. And that was just from the adults. The kids hadn’t even started yet.

Just because it was Christmas that doesn’t mean you can slap any old thing together and expect people to pay and see it. It was lazy, unfunny and poor. At a push, worth taking the little ‘uns if they are aged up to 5 tops.

I’m sure it was fun for everyone who filmed it. It’s just a shame they couldn’t convey that for everybody else.

I didn’t get me in the Christmas spirit but it certainly got reaching for the ones in my cupboard. Should be Dude, Where’s My Money?

 

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5. TRANSCENDENCE

Transcen-dunce or dense. A mind numbingly drab affair of a concept that has just enough meat to be a generic TV movie you’d expect to see on late night SyFy.

You know you’re onto a loser when the opening five minutes pretty much tells you what to expect and an established cast sleepwalk their lines and fail to make an impression.

It just proves that a little thing called story, along with some others called character, plot and interest still count.

Sleep walking performances, along with a by the numbers story line, relying on the popularity of familiar actors does not a good or profitable movie make.

I hope the memory of viewing this film will transcend, evaporating like the little nano-bots into nothingness. Avoid or upload at your own peril.

 

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4. UNDER THE SKIN

Under the skin? More like grating against my skin. What the hell did I just watch? Now imagine Species. Replace Natasha Henstridge with the even more alluring Scarlett Johansson. Set it in a grittier, murkier Scottish backdrop and bang on, you have . . . something worse than Species.

In fact just watch Species or the even more dire sequels to this drivel.

ScarJo plays a flirty alien that feasts on weak, shallow, lonely Scottish men. How could this be so bad? How can the man who brought us Sexy Beast produce this?

I mean he did do the oddly bizarre Birth. You know Birth? Nicole Kidman and her husband who is reincarnated as a 10 year old? Oh, that Birth, yeah.

 

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3. INTO THE STORM

Where to begin? The insufferable shaky handheld camera work? The cheesy Day After Tomorrow guff that managed to be more vomit inducing than the Day After Tomorrow?

The redneck tornado chasers? Richard Armitage getting his arse sucked off by a twister? Well, it bloody looked like he was.

This just made me want to walk out of the screen. Go to the nearest store that had the Twister DVD. Go back to the projectionist and tell them to put that on instead.

It was cringe-inducing bilge. I have never laughed so much. This was a farce. I have seen B-movies on SyFy that have contained better story lines and characters than this.

 

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2. AS ABOVE SO BELOW

As I watched, the more it blowed. Now childish sulky comments aside. Another found footage “horror” film graces the big screen with cheap scares, poorly acted, badly written characters and a laughable premise.

There is no tension. Random characters get bumped off left, right and centre without any background, interest or concern. Suspense. Naff all.

Loud noises and screams may make me jump out of my seat but what do you expect when the story has put me into a coma, near enough.

Feldman’s character with a dark past who constantly keeps reiterating that he will not go down into the catacombs; inevitably gets pushed down into the cave and what is his big secret?

He’s CLAUSTROPHOBIC! Why didn’t he say that in the first place? Idiot. Oh my God, it felt like something out of a comedy sketch.

 

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1. AND THE AWARD FOR WORST FILM OF 2014 GOES TO . . .

THE PYRAMID

This film should be buried beneath a pyramid.

You know you’re onto a loser when the saving grace is Jay from The Inbetweeners.

What a load of s#@! The demon bared a striking resemblance to those devil dog things from the live action Scooby Doo reboot. The one with Matthew Lillard as Shaggy.

It took half the film before they even got into the flipping thing. The ending was abrupt and predictable after all that endurance with the shoddy, shaky camera work.

Seriously, these found footage films need to STOP. It was too dark to see anything. Half of the time you get an elbow or a nostril. Come on, we’re in the Go Pro age guys!

Mindless exposition about unoriginal premises that have been done to death with lifeless characters that bicker through predictable and unscary scenarios are not acceptable.

 

CHAPPIE REVIEW

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This didn’t make me a happy chappie.

BUT it wasn’t all bad.

Chappie is basically a What If film.

What if Johnny Five was alive and hanging around in a South African ghetto with Die Antwoord?

Your reaction to that statement will probably be the one you have when you see it.

For me, it was a return to form (of sorts) for Neill Blomkamp.

After the drab affair that was Elysium, I feared the worst for Blomkamp. Especially after rewarding us with such a promising debut and sleeper hit, District 9.

I’m still waiting for them to return, Mr Blomkamp!

So what’s it all about? In the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie (Sharlto Copley) is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.

Hardly original. BUT for the first 30 minutes, I was switched on and hooked.

The inevitable talking head documentary intro that Blomkamp has grown accustomed to was unnecessary.

The quick introduction of the police bots and “Who’s Who?” kept things moving. Getting you straight into the thick of it.

The bots just reminded me of Robocop. Even their voices sounded like Peter Weller as they apprehended suspects. Granted, these upgrades were a lot more mobile.

The animation and special effects during the action sequences were fantastic.

BUT it’s not long before we’re introduced to a group of irritating street thugs and one unlucky police bot.

Die Antwoord? Where have you heard that name? They are responsible for the hit or travesty that was Enter The Ninja. Here’s a crash course for you.

Shudder.

It was a big risk to give a music act two of the more meatier roles. I respect Blomkamp for choosing South African talent BUT surely there were other contenders?

Yo-Landi Visser and Ninja didn’t do a bad job. It just didn’t help that one couldn’t act and the other’s character was so deluded and irritating, you were praying for Hugh’s Moose to crush him. (Wait, what? Steady now! I’ll get to that reference in two paragraphs).

The maternal moments between Chappie and Visser were done well but when it came to delivering any real lines with conviction, she fell short.

Ninja was such an unlikeable character. His deluded gangster ego was laughable. I’m sure that was Blomkamp’s intention but he was just so irritating. If he wasn’t yelling at Chappie, he was beating up Dev Patel.

Brandon Auret’s crime lord Hippo (A few animal names being thrown about) was ridiculous. It didn’t help that he was subtitled throughout the film. Even worse when you could understand every word the bloke was saying.

He played the nutter well enough. I think there was only one thug that deserved subtitling and that was because he was actually dipping in and out of English.

Jose Pablo Cantillo (Crank) was good as the appropriately titled character American.

The idea that a sentient robot is being raised by surrogate parents in the form of a trio of dysfunctional street thugs is hilarious.

It certainly had some funny moments. BUT also some shocking ones. His lessons on the world were interesting and well executed. However, if you were expecting something more serious and intense, you may be left wanting.

Blomkamp uses recurring stalwart Copley to provide his vocal gravitas to the mechanical messiah. And he is brilliant.

Chappie’s design looked great and his expressions were incredible. It was just the little things that made it for me. The little matrix dots that form eyes on Chappie’s visors, his mismatching ears made up of various parts, the irritating bling around his neck.

I liked that he had to learn like he was a child. His cowering behind walls, watching He-Man and being read story books were nice little touches.

Dev Patel played the part of Chappie’s maker Deon well. It was just annoying when his character seemed to keep disappearing for good chunks of the film. Merely popping up to reiterate exposition or when everything seemed to kick off.

Sigourney Weaver isn’t looking too shabby at 65 and she played the corporate drone as well as she could. BUT all she did was pout and moan at either Deon or Vincent. A waste of a talented actress.

Bar one cracking line delivered with Weaver’s conviction (Burn it to ASH!), you realise by the closing credits that her character was pointless.

Hugh Jackman, uh, well. He did his best. BUT his character was such a tool (Putting it mildly) that I couldn’t take him seriously.

All he did was monologue. Providing a running commentary of everything he was doing while donning the Steve Irwin look. “Shall I execute this program? Yes, I will. What is he doing? Where is he going? I’m going to follow him”.

Alright, mate. Inside voice, yeah?

He was so comical. It was cringeworthy. I was more afraid of his robo counterpart. The Moose. It was ED-209. Only it could fly and shoot missiles. So stairs won’t be a problem any more.

It’s racy, action packed, funny and the closing moments certainly surprised and disappointed at the same time.

In typical Blomkamp fashion, the ending leaves things a little . . .

District fans will know where I’m heading with this. If you don’t, I’m not going to spoil it. Some clever little twists certainly surprised me BUT it still came to an abrupt end.

The problem that Elysium had was that it was too serious. Chappie was too comical and at times for the wrong reasons. District 9 had that balance perfectly.

This hasn’t put me off the rumoured Alien reboot that Blomkamp is supposed to be directing.

If you’re expecting super serious bot on bot action, I recommend Terminator or Robocop. But if you’ve read my review and are still intrigued, then give it a go. It ain’t all bad.

3/5

SUITE FRANCAISE REVIEW

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Zuts alors! I’ve seen more drama and heartbreak in an episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo!

Two stars for two charismatic leads.

During the early years of German occupation of France in World War II, romance blooms between French villager Lucile Angellier (Michelle Williams) and German soldier Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts).

Such a shame. I really wanted to like this. It’s not all bad. Just a little disappointing.

For all the hype, I expected something more hard hitting.

The opening 15 minutes were slow burning BUT engaging. The archive footage showing German bombers descending upon Paris. Evacuees fleeing to the countryside in fear and desperation.

Williams’ shy protagonist and her uptight mother in law (Kristin Scott Thomas) trying to stick to their daily routine of collecting rent from their tenants. The tenants including several rather talented actors. Shame they weren’t used to their full potential.

Thomas (The English Patient) was good as the snobby sour faced mother-in-law. Stuck with a daughter who wasn’t fit to marry her valiant son and despised by the tenants for her ever-inflating rates.

However, there is also a little respect for her refusal to accept that the advancing Nazis are encroaching upon their village.

Williams (My Week With Marilyn) was excellent. She played the naive Lucile perfectly. Desperate to have a friend. Reduced to playing for a few minutes on the piano for leisure.

A harrowing bombing sequence in the countryside was unexpected and heart in mouth stuff. Villagers running for their lives. The Nazis showing no mercy. The silence through the aftermath was unsettling.

However, it seemed to take some time for the Nazi regiment to turn up. Despite the radio broadcast declaring France’s surrender. We are left with mindless chatter with the villagers about what the Germans might do.

The sound of the tanks and footsteps from the soldiers was brilliantly juxtaposed against the church singing as the regiment finally arrive.

Schonaerts (The Drop) made an instant impression. A well mannered officer who only wants a room to sleep and the key to the piano.

I expected the inevitable relationship between Williams and Schoenarts to take some time. BUT there wasn’t much else going on in the hour while this innocent encounter blossomed.

The leads had great chemistry and certainly kept me watching.

That’s not to say there wasn’t things going on BUT I couldn’t help question a few of them.

I felt the mish mesh of accents a little off putting. Considering Thomas is fluent in French, I expected her to see to speak a little of it. The only actor who did speak another language other than the Nazis was Lambert Wilson’s (The Matrix Reloaded) Viscount.

Ruth Wilson’s (Luther) broad English and Margot Robbie’s Aussie-Brit accent were a little annoying but alas, that’s Hollywood for you.

Speaking of which, Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street). I couldn’t help but question her relevance by the end of the film. Other than modelling a fetching set of silk stockings that every villager commented on and scowling, she doesn’t actually do anything or contribute to the story in any capacity.

There were a couple of interesting turns. The bureaucracy jibes being one particular highlight. Wilson’s snobby Viscount desperately bribing the Nazi commander just so his wife doesn’t have to keep an officer at their home.

The letters of gossip that were sent to the Nazis to settle old scores among the villagers was an eye opener. Accusing neighbours of being homosexuals, Jews and thieves. Shocking.

Tom Schilling’s introduction as Lieutenant Kurt Bonnet certainly picked things up. His presence soon becomes a problem for Wilson and Sam Riley’s (Control) family. Riley was quite good as Benoit Labarie.

The inevitable tension between him and Bonnet brewing up to a riveting if highly predictable finale.

But for the 107 minute running length, I felt myself wanting more.

Lucile and Bruno’s relationship was dealt with tactfully. Their brewing romance bubbling over music. Lucille’s loyalties soon torn as she finds herself in a position of power to help the community by using Bruno’s feelings for her.

That dynamic was quite interesting BUT not a lot was made of it. Some of the villagers respecting her for the help. Others disgusted for her affiliation with the enemy.

It certainly captures the humanity behind a brutal war and their relationship certainly carried the film.

BUT it seemed to build to a frantic finale after such a juddery pace. Only for it to end so abruptly with Lucile providing a voiceover summarizing what happened after the war.

Thomas was pushed further and further into the background despite being one of the more interesting characters in the piece.

The ending was quite pessimistic without spoiling too much. I understand that there are no happy endings when it comes to war. BUT it was too open ended for my liking.

Arguably, it was as poignant a statement for the time but when you have invested your time into these characters, a little closure (no matter how open or ridiculous) would have been nice.

It was tough not to make comparisons to other war dramas. I still find The Book Thief one of the better war dramas that I have seen in the last few years.

I kept expecting something more to happen. A bigger impact. Anything.

It was all left until the final 15 minutes and then didn’t wrap up well enough.

Disappointing.

2.5/5

BLACK SEA REVIEW

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Like the submarine, it’s dark, too long and rusty in all the wrong places.

I didn’t want the cast to walk the plank. Just the writer.

Jude Law was fantastic. I’ve always rated him as an actor. He plays the gruffly Scot Captain Robinson well. His accent was very good and he delivers enough charisma to hold his own against a talented cast of misfits.

So what’s it about? In order to make good with his former employers, a submarine captain (Law) takes a job with a shadowy backer to search the depths of the Black Sea for a submarine rumoured to be loaded with gold.

The running length was far too long. It’s gritty, at times claustrophobic and suspenseful but to be honest if it wasn’t for Law and Mendelsohn, I fear this film would have sunk faster than its naval counterpart.

The opening was painfully slow. Law did his best to keep things watchable and we feel for his character after being made redundant.

However, a plan is already in motion. A dangerous heist that could pay out big. 82 million to each participant.

Yes, that’s right. Nazi gold just sitting in a shipwreck. A shipwreck that happens to lie in the darkest, deepest regions of the ocean. Easy.

The set up was terrible. Forcing relationships between ship mates to make them more relatable.

The cliched exchanges between Konstantin Khabenskiy (Night Watch), Daniel Ryan (Mount Pleasant) and Law were so boring and unnecessary.

It felt hammy and drawn out. Writer Dennis Kelly tried to pump some life into the characters but it just didn’t work.

If Daniel Ryan’s character wasn’t so pessimistic and had that “I don’t think I can do this” expression smacked all over his face, I might have been surprised that he would turn out not to be in the rest of the film.

Tobias Menzies (Game of Thrones) had the easiest job going as the “shadowy businessman”. I mean, come on. Look at him. He’s look like a shady politician. Throw in a scowl and he’s done.

Five minutes of empty threats and predictable guff about failing to deliver and that’s goodbye from him.

Instead, we get a wimpering Scoot McNairy (Monsters). Don’t get me wrong, he plays it well. He was just irritating. Forced by Mr Shady (no, not Eminem) to protect his investment and join the crew.

Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) was reduced to nothing more than featuring in some dreary dream sequences or being stalked by Law. Nothing was really made of their relationship at all. A missed opportunity that her character just as redundant as her husband.

Once they got into the sub, things got a little more interesting. Just.

Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) captured the claustrophobic setting of the submarine perfectly.

Robinson’s runts featured the likes of David Threlfall (Shameless), Michael Smiley (He will always be Tyres from Spaced) and the legendary Ben Mendelsohn (Starred Up).

The inevitable friction already brewing between the crew before they even descended.

Mendelsohn was superb as the volatile Fraser. The perfect catalyst to get things going. A ticking time bomb.

The predictable bust up looming in the cards still managed to surprise me.

I expected a little punch up BUT what happened instead was the much needed oomph I was craving for.

And for another 20 minutes or so, I got into the film.

Unfortunately the film has only really has a few moments of brilliance. The sequence in which they are evading other submarines and transporting the gold was suspenseful enough. It was tense, and watchable.

Wondering whom the ocean would take next into the dark abyss.

BUT what didn’t help was that the murky darkness was surprisingly too dark to see anything. If not for Law’s commentary, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were doing.

Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man) was highly unmemorable. I kept hoping he would do something. Bar the final three minutes, I would have said he was completely useless. Silently stewing in the background while fondling his beard.

Bobby Schofield didn’t do too a bad job as he took his first proper feature role as the young outcast Tobin.

His introduction helped provide a little more depth to the crew and eased up this incredibly droll and all too serious affair.

The crew banter was quite good. A naive Tobin standing with a squeegee and bucket asking, “Where are the windows?”.

However, the whole father/son vibe between him and Robinson’s Law was a little cheesy. BUT you just about routed for them.

The pace and story just didn’t justify the 114 minute running time. Not enough going on.

It didn’t help that the explosive finale got things going again and then just ended. Abruptly and predictably.

Shame.

It wasn’t all bad but it wasn’t that great either.

2/5