AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON REVIEW

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Did the second instalment do what the first couldn’t?

Was I left fuming yet again? Or did I have to swallow my words?

They’re back. Bigger, badder but better? There’s only one way to find out.

When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron (James Spader), things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans

I will admit straight off the bat. I really didn’t like the first Avengers. I know? SACRILEGE! It just didn’t do it for me. Overlong, mind numbing and overhyped. If not for Tom Hiddleston’s superb turn as Loki and a thrilling 30 minute closing crescendo, I would have given up on the franchise.

I was furious at how rushed the endless superhero entries were. Just to get to the Avengers release date. Okay, the Thor films were fantastic. Hawkeye and The Black Widow didn’t even get an origin story. Iron Man 1 and 3 were good. Don’t get me started on 2.

The numerous Hulk origin attempts with Bana and Norton misfired (I actually liked the Ang Lee blockbuster. What?). Captain America was rushed. I was happy to see more of the superhero fighting in the past. BUT the Winter Soldier sequel did restore my faith a little.

Inevitably after the crazy money that the first Avengers film took, we had another. And after much deliberation and note taking, I can firmly say . . .

Well done, Mr. Whedon. You have won me over.

The opening was racy, fast paced and straight to business. The team finally gelled together and in the zone. The special effects were fast and furious. The overuse of CGI did make things a little too cartoony in parts. But how else are they going to create a nine foot Hulk?!

There were numerous SHIELD references that went over my head in the opening. I knew it had something to do with Marvel Agents of SHIELD but I’m not that big a fan. It might help to recap on Thor or the first Avengers as a certain sceptre is used quite heavily again.

Whedon’s witty one liners zinging left, right and centre like the endless cannon fodder. The banter between the team was top notch. The old fashioned Cap (Chris Evans) telling Stark off for using foul language being an ongoing joke was a particular highlight.

The team dynamic really worked for me and made for great viewing. I mean even the scene in which the gang were trying to lift Thor’s hammer as a drunk party trick shouldn’t have worked but was so funny.

Ultron was a perfect maniacal menace. Spader (Ol’ Red from The Blacklist) applying his gravelly gravitas with aplomb. The animation and detail was excellent.

I liked the brewing romance between Banner/Hulk and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). The lullaby that they use to calm the Hulk was a nice touch even if it reminded me of Shrek and Fiona. But I honestly thought there was always something between The Widow and The Cap? Oh, that cheeky minx. Anyway . . .

Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson made a more convincing couple as the Maximoff twins than they ever did in Godzilla. My only quibble with Taylor-Johnson was that his character Quicksilver was very much like a character in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Evan Peters played him. He ran really fast. What was he called? Oh yeah. Quicksilver. Hmmm . . . Interesting that. Copyright issues were there?

Olsen was always my Kryptonite even if she has been in some terrible movies. But she did the role of the Scarlet Witch justice as did Kickass.

I wasn’t really bored. It just got on with it and zipped along. Dipping only in a few parts to allow some much needed character development on some neglected heroes. *Cough* Hawkeye *Cough* Black Widow.

Renner had taken to the role well. But he was so one-dimensional. I mean, come on Whedon. Surely you’ve seen Arrow? But without spoiling anything, Whedon finally ventured into his background and gave him more depth. He was able to stand out among the ever-expanding roster of superheroes.

The trippy dream sequences that the Witch uses to play on her opponents’ minds was interesting as we got a little peak into The Black Widow’s past; most notably her training.

It was funny, intense, action packed. Great acting (Check), top banter (Check), cheeky Stan Lee cameo (BIG CHECK!). There were a few surprises to be had. BUT I couldn’t help but feel that there are too many characters from the Marvel-verse being introduced. Paul Bettany’s The Vision was an addition that felt like a mish-mesh of everybody else and didn’t really make as much of an impression as I expected.

And considering the huge ensemble, there were a few faces not to make an appearance. Merely mentioned in a passing comment. I’m looking at you, ladies. Ms Portman and Paltrow.

Inevitably it is all left wide open for more. SPOILERS! Behave. BUT this time round, I cannot wait for the next installment. I’m actually a little excited.

Well done.

3.5/5 With grounds to change to a 4

NOTE: Obviously stay behind and endure the relentless credits for a cheeky ten second teaser.

THE GOOD LIE REVIEW

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A good film.

A group of Sudanese refugees are given the chance to resettle in Kansas City, Missouri, where their encounter with an employment agency counsellor (Reese Witherspoon) forever changes their lives.

A wonderful little film that is certainly worth your attention. I originally watched this on a flight to America. I had no idea what it was about. Only that it featured Reese Witherspoon. I never expected to be rewarded with such an endearing and heart breaking story.

The opening half hour was riveting. It grabbed me from the get go. We watch in horror as a group of Sudanese children have their peaceful, tranquil village destroyed by rebel forces during the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1983.

Homes burned down and families massacred within a matter of minutes. It certainly made for sombre viewing as the children are forced to flee and attempt the walk to Kenya. Truly moving and tense as the children strive to survive the heat, the rebel forces and each other.

One child Theo (Femi Oguns) makes the ultimate sacrifice by offering himself as a recruit to the rebels while his siblings hide in a field. I only mention this little detail because it becomes part of an ongoing search for Mamere (Arnold Oceng – Adulthood).

Mamere and three other siblings- Jeremiah (Ger Duany), Paul (Emmanuel Jal), and Abital (Kuoth Wiel) manage to reach safety in an Ethiopian refugee camp. They are forever known as The Lost Children. The film then skips forward to the early 2000s as the group are chosen to go to the United States.

Issues with social services soon throws a spanner in the works as the siblings are separated; the three men are sent to Kansas City while Abital is placed in Boston. The rest of the film follows the men as they struggle to adapt to their new lives in a different culture. As well as battling exposure to drugs and dangerous animals.

As soon as the three men meet their employment agency counsellor Carrie Davis, things take a lighter turn.

Reese Witherspoon (Wild) and the lads worked really well together. Their innocence and naivety may have been a little cliched. Come on, I’ve seen Cool Runnings and Million Dollar Arm but it still made for highly watchable viewing. The Lost Children still very much at heart as they try to adapt to television, drive-thrus and supermarkets.

Carrie’s stubbornness and initial reluctance to help may have been old hat but their relationship was still an endearing one. Witherspoon was very much in the background of this flick. Merely using her star profile to get some attention to this engaging story.

I don’t think people would even have given it a look in. A shame considering how poor films have been lately that this film only got a limited release.

The job scenarios made for interesting viewing. Mamere continues to appeal for Abital’s move as well as search for his lost brother. Jeremiah’s naivety and generosity inevitably causes issues with his job at the supermarket.

His confrontation with a manager after giving away expired food to the homeless really highlighted the ugly corporate greediness that the Lost Children have never seen before. All the man wanted to do was work with the church.

Paul earns a job at a factory after his natural talent for building things. However, it isn’t long before he falls into the wrong crowd and is introduced to drugs.

The pace did dip in parts and was a little slow burning but it still made for dramatic and uplifting viewing as the film drew to a close. Just when I started to feel a little fidgety, an interesting development involving Theo led to a suspenseful border patrol encounter as Mamere tries to bring him home.

I didn’t realise how the aftermath of 9/11 would make such an impact on the immigration laws. However after such a dramatic and tense scene. The film just ends. And quite abruptly. With just a few credits explaining what happened next.

I was a little disappointed. It would have been nice to see those little credit bits. Just to round off what had been an intriguing film.

Corey Stoll (The Strain) and Witherspoon’s meagre subplot suggested that something was going on between them but it never really went anywhere. Nor was it brought up for that matter. (Thinking back to it). It seemed like a desperate attempt to add a bit of depth to Witherspoon’s already rounded character. A bit sloppy.

The cast were fantastic. It made a change to see new or virtually unknown actors taking the meatier roles. An interesting fact that I only just discovered. Duany, Jal and Wiel were all children that survived the Second Sudanese Civil War.

God knows what it must have felt like to go through that experience again. Say what you will about whether they should have for a movie.

BUT despite it’s little flaws, I was pleasantly surprised and would recommend this to anyone who wants an endearing uplifting journey of one family’s struggle.

3.5/5

BIG GAME REVIEW

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BIG, DUMB, LAME?

There’s only one way to find out.

The trailer looked ridiculous. I really had low expectations. BUT yet I came out after those mental 90 minutes with a guilty smile. And all I can say is this film is BIG FUN!

Samuel L (The L stands for Mother F**ker) Jackson takes on the iconic presidential role (About time!) in this 12A hampered action packed tour de force.

So what’s it about? A young teenager (Onni Tommila) camping in the woods helps rescue the President of the United States (Samuel L Jackson) when Air Force One is shot down near his campsite.

If you looked at that premise and shook your head, then this really isn’t for you. It’s silly, OTT but hilarious. For the right reasons? Well, that will be up to you.

Brought to you by the people that made Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. Now that should give you a picture of what to expect. Ridiculous concepts played straight. A dangerous game but it almost worked.

The opening was a little slow burning. All the ridiculousness bubbling in the background. We are introduced to Tommila’s Oskari as he set on a big game hunt by his father. An ancient tradition among the local village that a young boy must take to achieve the path of manhood. Blah, blah, blah.

Tommila’s deadpan expression and dry delivery really made the film for me. I normally find when teenagers are the lead characters in movies like these; they instantly grate against me. Not this time.

Tommila and SLJ were a great pairing. An unexpected one but a good one, none the same. SLJ has proven before that he can make silly premises watchable. Snakes on a Plane was relentless BUT a typical grade A B movie flick (A B? You know what I mean).

Their introduction was hilarious. The plane crash being mistaken for an alien spaceship by the young hunter was corny but the exchange between the pair was worth it. You could tell SLJ was having a laugh especially when Oskari throws POTUS two cups on a string. “Don’t hang up. Did I really just say that?”

The whole terrorist ploy to kidnap the President in a Finnish forest was hammy. All the elaborate and destructive planning just to take some pictures of POTUS and then kill him anyway? Don’t think into it too much.

Luckily, Mehmet Kurtulus’ (Equilibrium) Hazar is so demented and OTT that he takes the attention away from that little niggle. He’s that reckless that you could almost believe his stupid intentions. His missile testing game may have been a rip off of The Jackal but it was quite dark for a 12A using villagers as target practice.

Director Jalmari Helander has an impressive Hollywood cast at his disposal. It was a shame that not all of them were used to their potential. I mean, the presidential back staff that sat watching the chaos in a secure communications room consisted of the likes of Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives), Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs), Victor Garber (Alias) and Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter)!

All of them playing generic stock characters that were highly unmemorable. Well, Broadbent was the exception. He didn’t do a half bad American accent and I really wished his character had more screen time.

Ray Stevenson was actually quite good as the disloyal bodyguard. He has finally mastered the accent after so many poor renditions. *Cough* The Punisher: War Zone *Cough*

For all it’s silliness, it was strange seeing SLJ playing the role quite seriously. Normally in these stupid action movies or iconic classics i.e. Air Force One, the president instantly becomes a badass and disposes all of the baddies while his highly trained security detail are removed in the first act.

SLJ’s presidential character was quite weak. Flailing around and being knocked about. A little more realistic. If you can say that. It made a change. The badass attitude very much on the shoulders of Oskari.

His stand off with Stevenson’s bodyguard was comical. “Don’t worry, Mr. President. I got this”. Pinging a tiny arrow four inches into the ground.

Considering it was a 12A, it was highly violent and very dark. A scene in which SLJ looks up to see a trail of bodyguards sprinkled across the slope was a little graphic BUT the last 30 minutes was mental. More of what I expected from the get go.

OTT, fast, furious and oh so stupid! The freezer sequence had so many mixed emotions for me. Rolling down a ravine. Flying off a cliff. Dodging bullets. Words escape me.

It zipped along. Ended incredibly violently and oh so cornily. BUT I came out with a grin.

Did Jackson get to say his infamous punchline? I hear you ask. “You got to cock it, motherf-” Alas, the dreaded 12A certificate rearing its ugly head.

If you’re up for a laugh and a corny B movie actioner, then look no further. If you’re not, then keep on looking.

3/5

TWO BY TWO . . . OOPS! THE ARK HAS GONE REVIEW

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TWO many things wrong with this animated flick. A biblical disaster!

Look, I know that this is a kids film. BUT not even the little ‘uns that were in the cinema were interested.

The animation was good at least. BUT not even the bright colours and zany effects could shy away the tepid mess and wishy washy story line beneath its boring surface.

It’s the end of the world. A flood is coming. Luckily for Dave (Dermot Magennis) and his son Finny (Callum Maloney), a couple of clumsy Nestrians, an Ark has been built to save all animals. But as it turns out, Nestrians aren’t allowed. Sneaking on board with the involuntary help of Hazel (Tara Flynn) and her daughter Leah (Ava Connolly), two Grymps, they think they’re safe. Until the curious kids fall off the Ark. It’s definitely not going to be smooth sailing.

Ah ha. Nice try, IMDb with the blurb.

Nestrians? Grymps? That wasn’t even me asking. That was the children. “They weren’t on the Ark? Where are they now?” Of course, it was always going to be exaggerated for the film. And say what you will about the parable of Noah and the Ark but adding new species without any real interest or explanation? Come on!

We don’t really find out much about the Nestrians until the closing minutes. Other than that when they are scared, they release a blue smelly gas. Delightful. Too little, too late. The Grymps were just dogs, to be honest.

The father/son dynamic with Dave and Finny was a poor rip off of Finding Nemo. A overanxious father afraid to stay settled. Jumping at the slightest sense of danger and moving away to the furthest, most isolated spot in the middle of nowhere.

It didn’t help that the predictable cliched set up was hampered with dull jokes that weren’t really funny. Reduced to lazy fart gags and slapstick. Now I don’t mind a little of that. But every 30 seconds to compensate for what little was on offer? Tut tut tut.

The only chuckle I got from this was a scene involving an avalanche of boulders descending upon on some predatory gargoyle things in the form of Tetris. An old school reference that went totally over the little ‘uns heads.

I’m not going to lie. I almost nodded off. In fact, I might have. The fact I was having to recall whether I slept or not meant the film had certainly not done its job.

Woeful. I usually commend family films because they always have something for every one and normally succeed where other genres fail but this offers very little for all. This should have been released as a TV cartoon at best (If they still do weekend cartoons in the mornings). It doesn’t have enough to justify being on the silver screen.

The plot holes just rubbed me up the wrong way. A lion appointed by Noah to select what animals get on the list? Really? Also, where is Noah? The lion is steering the ark at one point. The check in cruise liner gag was okay if predictable. The monkey butlers got a little smile.

It didn’t help that Leah and Finny were so unlikeable. The journey they go on is so formulaic and uninteresting. It was slapped together so lazily and cornily that I really couldn’t care.

Maloney does his darndest to make Finny likeable but he is just so annoying and the poor boy’s voice really does grate against you. Giving a kid with verbal diarrhea a microphone was probably not the best idea.

Paul Tylak and Patrick FitzSymons tried their best with Obesey and the parasite that rests on his head (Eurgh! That’s right) Tanglefoot. FitzSymons’ delivery was so flat. He sounded bored doing the role. The only one liner I thought was okay; “I only came for dinner but what can I say, you’re a great host?”. Ba-dum-tsssh!

Like the oncoming waves, the film just swept through the motions. Lazy, unfunny and mind-numbing.

The creatures only discover key attributes about themselves after a dramatically tense moment in the closing 15 minutes with Finny falling into the ocean. The Finding Nemo references were uncanny but it couldn’t hide just how poor this really was.

Disappointed isn’t even the word. But it will have to do for now. I refuse to waste any more energy on this shambolic affair.

1/5

THE AGE OF ADALINE REVIEW

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Lively and Huisman excel in an easygoing and endearing love story. Even if you may have seen it all before.

A young woman (Blake Lively), born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man (Michiel Huisman) who complicates the eternal life she has settled into.

The concept is Forever (The recently cancelled immortal drama with Ioan Gruffudd). A freak accident and suddenly a young girl is unable to age. Predictable and a little corny BUT with an enigmatic cast and characters I actually cared about, I was happy to indulge.

Lively (Gossip Girl) delivered a sterling performance and wasn’t too bad on the eye either. What? Come on, ladies. You have Huisman’s torso to look at.

The film goes at an easygoing pace as we flick back and forth through the life of Adaline. The narration by Hugh Ross was okay to begin with. Filling in the blanks as we flash through the early years. Straight to the point and easy character building.

However, the ongoing commentary in every other scene soon got really annoying and a little unnecessary. His detailed explanation of how the lightning strike activated Adaline’s immortality just made the whole thing sound even more ridiculous. Some waffle about a scientific theory in 2035 proving this probability really didn’t help its case. Anyhoo . . .

It wasn’t long before people suspect something’s not right when Adaline hasn’t aged a day at 45. A simple traffic infraction with a local officer soon puts her on the run for the next 60 years! It was good how they tied in Adaline running from the law with the Communist witch hunt that consumed America in the 50s.

The paranoia, the questions, the reason why she stays living a life of secrecy but never truly living. She still has to make secret rendezvouses with her own daughter who has to pretend to be her grandmother. Yes, just like Forever. Ellen Burstyn (Interstellar) and Lively worked well together. To be honest, I would have been happy to see more of their relationship. Not enough of Burstyn.

We join Adaline as she is preparing herself another identity and a quiet peaceful life. That is until Ellis Jones arrives on the scene.

Huisman and Lively have fantastic chemistry and make the inevitable luvvy duvvy stuff that much more bearable. Huisman (Game of Thrones) was charismatic and made some of the cornier chunks of dialogue that bit more bearable. I don’t mind watching a couple inevitably get together as long as it isn’t too OTT and the characters are not irritating. So well done to the pair of them as we see Adaline desperately trying to turn down the advances of a man who is transfixed.

The courting ensues while the chemistry bubbles. Adaline finally lowering her guard. That is until (Not again!) she meets Ellis’ father, William. An old flame from her past.

Harrison Ford was brilliant. A return to form for Solo. He played the melancholic moper well. It certainly spiced things up as William refuses to accept that Adaline is a mere relation. The flashback sequences with younger William and Adaline melded with the present worked well.

Anthony Ingruber. I couldn’t believe how much he looked like Harrison Ford. It was uncanny. Did they have a good make up artist? CGI? If Lucas was considering bringing back the Indiana Jones franchise than look no further.

Amanda Crew (Sex Drive) was the only actress that I was disappointed with. But that was because her role was so unmemorable. If anything, her character wasn’t really needed. Other than to be another player in a family game of Trivial Pursuit. A shame.

Everything comes to a head and ends oh so predictably. BUT it was endearing, highly watchable and wasn’t the worst way to kill a couple of hours. Just don’t think too much into the not ageing thing because the explanations just made the plot hole even worse.

A great cast and great chemistry makes this one to give a go.

3/5

UNFRIENDED REVIEW

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I’ll unfriend anyone who liked this film.

A little harsh. Some might say. But you know you’re onto a loser when everyone in the cinema is laughing. Uninspiring, unattractive and uninteresting.

As soon as the crackly Universal logo started buffering across the screen, I feared the worst.

So what’s this tripe about? A group of online chat room friends find themselves haunted by a mysterious, supernatural force using the account of their dead friend.

We see everything through the POV of Shelley Hennig’s character Blaire and the webcams of her friends. An intriguing concept, I’ll admit. That was if we wasn’t watching a teenage girl nosing around on a Mac.

The creepy YouTube video of her high school friend committing suicide certainly caught my attention and it was clever how the Facebook posts and clips filled in everything we needed to know. A malicious prank (That felt like something out of the Inbetweeners) inevitably triggers an online bullying campaign by trolls.

The notion of cyber-bullying is something that needs to be addressed but this film merely uses it as a lazy ploy for a vindictive cyber-demon.

What infuriated me was the lack in pace. Bearing in mind we are seeing a teenage girl, fully active in the social media age and adapted to the relentless technological gadgetry; she was incredibly slow at moving her mouse around. It was like watching my 80 year old aunt slowly clicking on each tab, killing any suspense or tension that the film failed to build up.

Hennig and Moses Storm were such a vomit inducing couple. Using Skype to waste screen time and bore me with cheesy, cliched dialogue that did little to make me feel anything for them. Also an online foreplay sequence involving a knife definitely set the wrong tone for its teen audience and came off unfunny and questionable.

I was praying for the troll or demon thing to make an appearance after ten minutes of listening to them whining about making Prom Night THE night and messing around with their blasted Spotify playlists.

And then the Skype chat begins and I wish I walked out. The cast were terrible. Let me rephrase. The characters were terrible. Irritating, obnoxious, deluded and stupid! As soon as Jacob Wysocki bellowed through the tinny speakers, “I can see your chodies” with his face stuffed full of Cheetos, I knew I was done.

The mindless chatter and desperate attempts to fuse any tension between the characters was futile. The flicking back and forth between the Skype chats and private Facebook chats was well done. It was just a shame that the conversations were so bland.

However, as soon as the anonymous Skype member joined in and Blaire started receiving messages from her dead BFF, my interest was finally piqued.

It was slow burning and I don’t mind that if there is a big pay off. A moment of ingenuity, suspense, shock! I had to remember that they are teenagers and some of their decisions may have been stupid but not too similar to the majority of teens out there that would do the same thing.

And some of the more logical steps they do try. Deleting said dead friend off Facebook. I didn’t know how to do that. Not remove dead friends obviously. Reporting forums. Virus software if a troll has managed to get onto your server. So I will commend where credit is due.

BUT the bickering. The yelling. It gave me a headache. It’s not long before secrets are leaked out on Facebook. The ridiculous demon forums with their silly chain letters. My teacher spoke to a demon last night and woke up dead. Perrrrleeeassseee.

Will Peltz played the douchebag Adam well but his actions and volatile behaviour were comical. Grabbing a gun from his desk and threatening an online cyber troll through a webcam was stupid. What made it worse was that the dodgy stuff hadn’t even happened yet. This was 30 minutes in when ANONYMOUS asked to play a game.

When things inevitably take a turn for the worst, there were little pockets of tension but little scares. The rule of the game being: YOU LOG OUT. YOU DIE. YOU DON’T PLAY THE GAME. YOU DIE. You get the picture. A scene in which one of the users is “punished” was just plain messed up. It surprised me. The one and only time. I thought to myself, “Okay. Going for the Saw angle. I’ll go with this”. Hand. Blender. Woah. That’s all I’m saying.

BUT alas after that little shocker, we have more squealing, more yelling and more rubbish. The game was actually not that bad. BUT the little conversations away from the Skype chat soon bored me again. Blaire still believes that it is a joke set up by her BF after two messed up deaths? Come on. She keeps typing to him in a private chat and doesn’t even look at the Skype chat window to see he is not typing and completely freaking out.

Then we have the shocking confessions as the friends turn against each other. The inevitable “Who leaked the video?” that caused so-and-so’s death? The reveal being utterly predictable and disappointing. And what do you know? They weren’t such good friends after all.

After failing to deliver scares, it went for plain stupidity. Using Chat Roulette to call for help. Seriously? Lordy lord. It got the biggest laugh out of the film. Now if this was a comedy, it would have been great. BUT in a film that promised Paranormal Activity meets Cyberbully, it was devastating. A girl in tears asking two stoners to call the police because her friend is being killed by something she doesn’t know. Unbelievable.

If you want a nail biting, tension setting thriller that deals with the true horror of online cyber bullying, please watch the superior Channel 4 drama Cyberbully with Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones. It was also brought to my attention by fellow blogger MOVIEBLORT that Unfriended stole the premise of a smaller (and better) horror film, The Den. That’s the most shocking twist of it all.

http://movieblort.com/2014/04/23/96-the-den-2014-a-young-woman-studying-the/

The finale finally got going as me and my friends were getting ready to go. I thought maybe we will break out of the POV when the demon appears? Oh for a only brief – TRANSMISSION ENDED.

AVOID!

1/5

SPOOKS: THE GREATER GOOD REVIEW

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One of the best British dramas takes to the silver screen? Was it needed? Did it succeed? Or should the BBC have let old dogs lie?

I won’t hide my bias. I am a huge Spooks fan. It came around the same time as 24, managed to stand its own, and became one of my favourite TV shows. But very much like 24, it was never afraid to wipe out main characters, deliver twists and turns every week, tense cliffhangers and nail biting cryptic dialogue between fellow spies and high ranking officials.

It may have lost the battle with 24 but certainly lasted the war. 24 stumbled at series 6 and never really recovered. It improved. While Spooks only really tested me at Series 8 of a 10 series run!

The last two series did feel like old hat. What was hard hitting soon became predictable and a retread of stronger story lines from earlier series. I guess there is only so much you can do with a spy drama. But the final series delivered a heartbreaking and satisfying finale.

Four years after the hit series came to a close, we have a movie. A close that was long overdue as the show seemed to be heading down the road of mediocrity. A fitting ending that wrapped things up but subtly suggested that a return wasn’t out of the question.

So here we are. Did I sigh? Denounce the movie gods? Nope. I felt excited. My love for Spooks not quite over and after watching this film . . . I can firmly say it’s still not.

The opening sequence set the tone. Tension bubbling on the back burner. Even if I found the dialogue a little flat and cliched. Spies ironically playing the game ‘I Spy’ while the “cocky” CIA operatives chat up the only British totty (Tuppence Middleton) in the surveillance squad.

However, my little niggles were soon pushed to the back of my head (momentarily) by the introduction of one of my TV icons, head of MI5 security services, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth).

As soon as Firth entered the scene, the fan boy excitement was back. Offering a pillow to a systems analyst who had time to rest his feet on his desk.

It wasn’t long before something was afoot and we were thrown straight into the action as a terrorist (Elyes Gabel) escapes custody during a routine handover.

Racy, tense and very much in the style of the Bourne films. But let’s not forget Spooks were there first! They even threw in the infamous TV title sequence.

I will emphasize that the pace really is put on the back burner. It seemed to chug along after a promising opening and Pearce facing termination after making a judgement call.

The bureaucratic sniping and dealing with the “red tape” spiel did feel like the Spooks of old. Unfortunately, that meant it was dreadfully predictable. However, that was all relieved by some cracking performances from some old faces (Oh yes) and a lot of new ones.

Tim McInnerny (Blackadder) was superb as Mace. Just as callous and manipulative as ever. The introduction of David Harewood (Homeland) and Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) was a mixed bag for me. Harewood played the uptight Warrender perfectly. A weaselly two faced mediator desperate to keep both agencies at bay.

The only cast member that annoyed me was Jennifer Ehle. Normally I don’t mind her but what the hell was her accent supposed to be? Her twang (even though she was meant to be English) really grated against me. It was like she was trying to do an impression of the Queen. Terrible.

Disgraced, Pearce must look to the only person who can help him. The agent who he removed from MI5. Cue . . . No, not Matthew Macfadyen! I know. Gutted, too.

It’s only Jon Snow, of course. Kit Harington literally hits the ground running making a memorable entrance into the mix. Smashing through a cafe window to escape some Russians. Never found out why he was running? A passing comment would have been nice after an entry like that.

Harington was very good. The sulky scorned spy role suited him and he worked well with Firth. Their relationship may have been a little cliched (and strikingly similar to Kingsmen) as Pearce knew his father who died in a botched operation.

BUT it was still interesting to see their already fractious bond tested to the max. And yes, Harrington’s character knows nottthhinggg. One for the Game of Thrones fans.

Harington was the much needed catalyst to jump start this spluttering slow burner. Once he begins Borune-ing the place up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, I was hooked.

The airport rendezvous with Pearce was superb. Tense, suspenseful and every thing that won me over with Spooks the first time round. The numerous drop off points, the items of clothing with cryptic cards and the time frames. Brilliant.

At it’s best, it’s tense, dramatic with the odd shocker. But at it’s worst, it’s a little predictable and slow. The problem with Spooks is that you always know there is a bigger play. And the cogs are always turning. You can call things before they happen. That’s the problem after 10 series. It does kill the tension and some of the bigger reveals.

Firth was excellent as HP. Despite being integral to the plot, he does seem to be pushed into the background. A little disappointing. Harington’s Holloway is always at the forefront. Not a problem as he proves to be a worthy addition to the Spooks set.

However, Firth still gets his moment to shine and when he does, it’s great. After all the sorrow and tough decisions the man has to make, you really hope that there can be some solace for him.

I don’t think it’s a must for people who haven’t seen Spooks. There are a lot of new faces. When the old ones appear, you get the picture. I won’t say who, Spooks fans. Don’t worry. But there isn’t as many as I hoped.

And Guppy from Casualty has come a long way. Game of Thrones, A Most Violent Year and now this? He was brilliant as the maniacal Qasim. His American accent was impeccable. Take lessons, Ms Ehle. Tuppence Middleton showed potential. I just wish her character wasn’t so bland. But then again Spooks fans, who will ever top Ros?

The film may have been patchy but the last 20 minutes still had me trying to connect the dots. Even if some twists worked and others didn’t, the closing scenes still got me. And Firth stole the show, allowing HP to show a little vulnerability. Cracking his cold demeanour for a one moment before shaking it off and vanishing like a ghost. A spook. Proving once again why his character will always be one of my favourites.

The ending may have been ambiguous but it confirmed one thing for me. I’m still not quite ready to let Spooks go just yet. The film format certainly didn’t kill the franchise. If anything, it has given me hope. A few tweaks on the plot and pacing and I’m happy for it to continue. Cue freeze frame. Black and white.

3.5/5

Also did anyone else feel the title made you want to do this?