*NEW* A WALK IN THE WOODS REVIEW *NEW*

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A walk to remember? Jog on.

A watchable if incredibly tame affair sees two ageing screen icons having fun. Shame, it didn’t live up to much.

After spending two decades in England, Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) returns to the US, where he decides the best way to connect with his homeland is to hike the Appalachian Trail with one of his oldest friends (Nick Nolte).

From the opening, I knew Redford would be a perfect Bryson. Quick witted and bored. We watch the frustrated travel writer meander along. Uninterested with life and New Hampshire. His awkward socializing at a funeral said it all.

A passing comment from a morning show host about never travelling in his own back yard and it isn’t long before Bryson yearns for another adventure. And what a trek. The 2,200 mile Appalachian trail.

Emma Thompson was delightful as Bryson’s long suffering spouse. She worked well with Redford. I was disappointed to see so little of her. I would have been happy to watch more of the pair. Deliberating leaving articles about bear attacks, murder mysteries and poisonous everything around the house in a hope of unsettling the stubborn fool.

However, a deal is made. Bryson must travel with someone. Cue the grisly bear that is Nick Nolte. A gruff overweight husk of a pensioner. An old friend that Bryson desperately tried to keep off his list.

Redford and Nolte made a likeable pair. They worked well together and shared some good banter. As soon as the pair began, they struggled up the first hill. Teens and kid scouts skipping past them without a care in the world.

The film had an air of Grumpy Old Men with a Wild vibe. It was easygoing and light hearted enough as the pair bicker, grunt and groan. Nolte hasn’t aged well at all. I couldn’t tell how much was put on for the film. BUT he was still a slick charmer with his smart ass commentary.

John Bailey’s cinematography certainly captured some picturesque shots of the trail through the different seasons. It almost made me want to pick up a bag pack and go.

Despite seeing two screen icons slumming it and having a laugh, it was all a little tame and predictable. You knew that their bickering would unearth deeper resentments. The fact the pair hadn’t talked for nearly 40 years was a clue alone. You knew that inevitable heart to heart moment would soon be on the cards.

It wasn’t all bad. There were fun moments to be had with Nolte being chased by a redneck for chatting up his wife. The pair screaming and waving their arms around like nutters to scare off some bears.

Kristen Schaal (The Flight of the Conchords) was funny and oh so irritating in her camping cameo as the hiker from hell. Her constant put downs and know it all attitude soon sets these two old codgers running for the hills.

I was impressed with the supporting cast. It was a shame that Schaal was the only one to make a lasting impression. Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) was completely wasted in his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role as the tent guide. His deadpan style wasn’t used to its full potential. A quick sarcy one liner about a rain cover wasn’t enough.

And the wafer thin subplot, if you can call it that, with Mary Steenburgen’s character was a waste of time. The flirty exchanges with Bryson and Steenburgen’s motel proprietress were tame. You just knew that he would never be tempted and it surmounted to nothing. Shame.

There wasn’t a lot going on after an easygoing opener. It tended to drag and soon fizzled out by the closing moments after the pair had their epiphanies. It didn’t help that it ended so corny and predictably.

There was enough charm to make this a watchable and lighthearted romp BUT memorable? Not for me, I’m afraid.

2.5/5

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*NEW* THE VISIT REVIEW *NEW*

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That’s one visit I won’t be making again.

A single mother (Kathryn Hahn) finds that things in her family’s life go very wrong after her two young children (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould) visit their grandparents (Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan).

Has M. Night Shyamalan broken his movie curse? Not even close.

To think this was from the guy who brought us The Sixth Sense, The Village, Unbreakable and Signs (Yes. For all its ridiculous plot holes. I liked it).

A creepy premise that had moments of genuine suspense and tension was soon hampered by silly handheld camera play, annoying kids and unintentionally hilarious dialogue.

The opening didn’t give me much hope. DeJonge’s pretentious movie geek waffle numbed me into a coma while Oxenbould’s freestyle rapping had me cringeing in terror. Was that Shyamalan’s intention?

Now credit where it’s due. Despite being a patchy affair, it was still watchable. I desperately tried not to pick at Hahn’s parenting skills. Yeah, just chuck your kids on a train without speaking to the parents you haven’t spoken to for 15 years. Something about a “incident” that made her run away from home. Nothing suspicious there :/

Dunagan was superb as Nana. Sickly sweet one second, shrill and volatile the next. McRobbie disappeared for chunks of the film BUT when he was given the chance, he was creepy as hell with his blank staring and zombie-esque wandering.

During the day, we suffered through mindless exposition, cheesy Skype-ing with Mom and sickly sweet exchanges with Nana and Pop Pop. That is until night fall. Now that’s where things got a little more interesting. The slow burning tension slowly bubbling away. One simple rule. Don’t come out after 9.30 pm.

This little premise intrigued me. The questions pondering as each night passed. The grandparents’ activity getting stranger and creepier. The “sundowning” theory for explaining the grandmother’s strange behaviour was almost believable. Playing it down to a rare strand of dementia.

The hide and seek sequence was genuinely tense and unsettling. Every time the kids crept around another corner, I feared something would pop out and give my heart a jolt. However, the tension was soon killed off by Dunagan’s backside. I kid you not. It spoiled the scene. Redeemed by a cheeky one liner from Oxenbould.

And that was the problem, there were a number of moments that came off unintentionally funny. Dunagan creeping around the house. Weird. Running around like Batman in the nude? Shudder. Not so much. Every time DeJonge’s granddaughter pried Nana for more information about the “incident”, she would beat herself up like Dobby the house elf. Lordy lord.

The tone was all over the place. Menacing and tense in one second, parodical the next. If not for the needless nudity, this could have easily been a 12A. I loved the Blair With vibe around the piece but the Paranormal shaky hand cam has been done to death in horror films for the last decade. What I loved about Shyamalan’s works was the fact that he never caved into this relentless fad. Until now.

One thing that can be agreed that was a vast improvement from The Happening.

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The twist. Oh yes, you can’t have a Shyamalan movie without a twist. It was hardly a surprise. If anything I wanted more. BUT it certainly made the last 15 minutes a nail biting and racy little finale. Even Oxenbould managed to win me over by the end. I was actually rooting for the annoying little toad.

BUT it ended so abruptly and then out of fear of being too serious, we had another stupid rap from Oxenbould tacked on. A terrible footnote for a mismatched movie. Back to the drawing board, Shyamalan.

 

2/5

*NEW* THE TRANSPORTER REFUELLED REVIEW *NEW*

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The Transporter returns rebooted, recast and rehashed.

In the south of France, former special-ops mercenary Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) enters into a game of chess with a femme-fatale (Loan Chabanol) and her three sidekicks who are looking for revenge against a sinister Russian kingpin (Radivoje Bukvic).

I can remember watching the first Transporter. It was violent, fast, furious and with that bald chap from Lock, Stock. It was a cult action flick. Unfortunately they had to make more of them. Okay, Transporter 2 may have pushed it but it was an enjoyable thrill ride. And the less we say about Transporter 3, the better. Well, that was until I saw this.

I could see why a fresh start was needed. BUT why on Earth would Luc Besson give a reboot to the director that killed the franchise in the first place? I didn’t realise how big a void Jason Statham would leave. It wasn’t just his physical presence. His deadpan style. His humour. The guy can generally make the naffest lines sound cool.

The opening of this shambolic affair did everything to grab my attention with people being shot left, right and centre. It also flicked back and forth as we follow Anna (Chabanol) preparing her revenge on her handler. A plan ten years in the making.

Anna was probably the most interesting character in the whole piece. Only giving Frank little tidbits of her master plan. It may have been the same old guff. The young migrant forced into prostitution after the false promise of a new life. BUT she kept things watchable.

If anything, she made Frank Martin the supporting character in his own story. And the supporting ladies may have looked nice BUT they had no depth or character at all. Their sole purpose to be Stevenson’s lapdogs while they held him hostage.

From the moment the “resurged” Frank Martin made his introduction, I cringed. He may have looked the part. BUT for every cool punch and kick, Skrein’s horrific delivery would spew a cheesy one liner that just sounded terrible. It was laughable for all the wrong reasons. The car park scene (A complete rip off of Transporter 2 by the way) was cliched to death.

The story line was terrible. What didn’t help was the shoddy time frame. The writers’ maths must have gone out the window because this film was set in the year 2000. Considering this was supposed to be a reworking into the present day? Hmmm . . . By the end though, I couldn’t care less.

One thing director Camille Delamarre can deliver is set pieces. His only saving grace. The airport sequence was sheer bloody bonkers. The car chases were fast and furious. Even if the bank heist opener was a complete rehash of the first film. The only thing that infuriated me was the use of CGI. It wasn’t needed. It just spoiled the stunts for me.

It didn’t help that for every decent set piece, there was a hammy piece of dialogue or dull storytelling. Martin slamming his Audi into crawl mode and beating up all the baddies blocking his way. YES! Bickering to his dad about women and being late. NO!

That’s what really annoyed me. The Stath’s Martin tried to stick to the rules. Skrein never did. He kept changing the rules and was late every time. The iconic character’s gimmick and they messed it up. Gutted.

Chabanol and Skrein didn’t work too badly. They had good chemistry BUT I felt their love scene was forced. It was rushed and wasn’t necessary. Just like Stath and Shu Qi’s little tete-a-tete. Any excuse for a bit of skin.

I liked the mystery around Martin in the original. I could respect the attempt to bring in a different angle to his character BUT it just didn’t work. The endless bickering and “banter” between Skrein and Ray Stevenson’s father figure was terrible. It just made me miss Francois Berleand’s Inspector Tarconi. And Stevenson? What on Earth was he playing at? I’m sure he had fun and gave it a good old go. BUT he came off as a right old lech.

Radivoje Bukvic was a terrible villain. He failed to make any real impression. To be honest, Noemie Lenoir’s character did a better job. And no! Not just because she’s a model. I actually thought she was running things. She was doing a whole lot more than him. And put up more of a fight!

A steaming mess. I think they should let this sleeping dog lie. Laughable and cringe-inducing. If not for some cracking action scenes and one interesting character, this would have got nil points from me.

A rebooted franchise that was never needed and never wanted. No Stath? I lose faith.

2/5

*NEW* WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS REVIEW *NEW*

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WE ARE NOT IMPRESSED.

Going down in history with the worst opening weekend for a major Hollywood film on wide release, this dull DJ affair was surprisingly watchable BUT enjoyable? Well . . .

Caught between a forbidden romance and the expectations of his friends, aspiring DJ Cole Carter (Zac Efron) attempts to find the path in life that leads to fame and fortune.

A mixed bag. Patchy, uneven and uninteresting. I could feel my eyes closing by the hour marker. I really hoped for an American indie take on Human Traffic. Here’s a quick reminder.

Any excuse for a Human Traffic reference. Anyway, I hoped for a belting soundtrack, a good cast and a good story. Well . . . The music was kinda good.

I fear for Efron. Is this the only role the guy can get? The troubled good looking guy spiel is wearing thin. Don’t get me wrong, he has just enough charisma to keep the lead likeable BUT he needs a game changer. And unfortunately this wasn’t.

It doesn’t help that we’ve seen this story before. And so much better. Jonny Weston (Project Almanac) was incredibly irritating as Cole’s best friend, Mason. While the rest of the gang were unlikeable or unmemorable. Shiloh Fernandez’s Ollie was too bland and too much of a drip to care about. Alex Shaffer’s Squirrel wasn’t really brought into the mix until the final minutes. A waste of time.

I’m sure that was supposed to be the point as Cole tries to break away from this hum drum lifestyle. BUT it was hard to enjoy the lads’ “shenanigans” when they were doing your nut in. I say shenanigans. Pulling birds and popping pills.

The dig from Cole about EDM was interesting. All you need is a laptop. Some knowledge of DJ software and one ground breaking track apparently. I’m sure it was meant to be a statement on the saturation of EDM but it kind of takes a stab at people who buy the music. Me.

The tracks that Efron and Bentley’s characters regarded as bilge were actually quite good. Here’s an example. Something to jazz it up a bit.

Too jazzy? Moving on. What made me laugh was that their “authentic” ground breaking tracks were absolute tosh. Apparently authentic is the sound of a coin spinning on a table and Efron’s housemate shooting nails through the roof. Brilliant :/

I did like the downbeat tone and warped corporate angle. It was just a shame that it was never really used to its full potential. The dark underbelly of the American dream was perfectly demonstrated with Jon Bernthal’s sleazy realtor. A tense scene in which we watch the snake at work had potential BUT it never really went anywhere. Merely a turning point for the hapless DJ.

The alluring Emily Ratajkowski (Gone Girl) was nice to look at. BUT her acting? Her acting wasn’t actually that bad.

It just didn’t help that her character had the depth of an attractive looking cardboard cut out. She certainly had good chemistry with Efron which made their inevitable romance that little more bearable.

I think the only actor who might come out of this mess unscathed is Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games). He was fantastic as the washed up alcoholic DJ. He brought the much needed tension or drama that each scene desperately needed. Living proof that fame has a price.

BUT the tone was all over the place. A visually eye catching piece of animation may not have sent the right message about taking drugs. I liked the existential crisis that Cole was going through. Is there more to life than a 9 to 5? BUT it came off far too pretentious for it’s own good. Especially when he wanted to make loads of money from just making one track. Talk about work ethic.

The zippy graphics and visuals were interesting in the opening sequence BUT they soon overstayed their welcome. The animated segment about bass and getting people’s heartbeats to the right level of “synchronicity” (Yup) was ridiculous and laughable.

It didn’t help that when everything finally kicked off. Bar one unexpected scene (No spoilers), it was all pretty flat and predictable. Bernthal’s realtor was never revisited or resolved. The pace stuttered along. And after all that monotonous build up, the film delivered a cliched and abrupt finale.

Dull and disappointing.

2/5

*NEW* RICKI AND THE FLASH REVIEW *NEW*

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Meryl Streep sings and struts her way through this easygoing BUT tragically mediocre melodrama.

A musician (Streep) who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family.

Penned by Diablo Cody. A somewhat mixed reaction for me. At her best, Juno. Her worst? Jennifer’s Body. This effort luckily fares somewhere in between.

We join Ricki as she performs at her local venue. A battered up pub with her regulars; half a dozen bar flies. I am a huge fan of the Streep. You know that with any film she will give 100%. It was a perfect showcase to see Streep do her best Stevie Nix impression. Anyone who has seen Mamma Mia and Into The Woods will know that she has a cracking voice.

The songs that were written for the film weren’t that bad. It was easygoing and chugged along. BUT things took a more interesting turn as Ricki has to return home to tend to her daughter (real life daughter Mamie Gummer) who is reeling from a bad divorce.

It was great seeing Streep act with her own daughter. Gummer gave as good as she got. As soon as she made her introduction and stormed into the room with her messy hair and dressing gown, I knew Streep had met her match. The fractious relationship between Ricki and Julie made for good viewing as the pair tried to reconcile their differences.

It may have been 33 years since Sophie’s Choice but Kevin Kline and Streep finally reunite once again. They worked well together and Kline played the role of the ex-husband Pete brilliantly. Desperate for the family to be together again. If anything, I was a little disappointed that he wasn’t in it enough.

And that was the main problem for me. There wasn’t enough drama. It didn’t kick off as much as I had hoped and was resolved far too quickly. A heated reunion at a restaurant was a perfect boiling point for Ricki’s sons to vent their anger at their mother who chose fame over family.

Audra McDonald’s Maureen and Streep’s Ricki sparred brilliantly together. It made for a compelling scene as we finally delve a little more into Ricki’s past. I just wish more was made of it. A few passing comments and snipey remarks wasn’t enough. You certainly felt for Ricki but you could also understand Maureen’s frustration after taking over as mum for all those years.

The problem was that after the hour marker, the film fizzed out. All the interesting family drama was put on the back burner and we were left moping over a silly little love subplot with Rick Springfield’s Greg.

Springfield played the love interest well enough. He was a likeable character BUT it was obvious that the pair would get together. To be honest from their on-stage banter and flirty exchanges, I thought they already were.

There were still some good scenes as Ricki desperately tries to hide her feelings and question why Greg would love someone like her. Awww. BUT it shied away from the real story for me.

And yes, I did clock Diablo Cody as one of the bar regulars. Ben Platt (Ol’ Benji from Pitch Perfect) still managed to annoy the hell out of me. Even in a small bartender role.

The closing quarter was far too schmaltzy for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, there were some nice moments as the family seem to accept her and she suddenly receives a wedding invitation. BUT there was a suggestion that Pete still had feelings for Ricki which was never really explored or bothered with.

It ended far too quickly and was dreadfully corny and OTT. A good old song and dance to make up for 35 years of neglect and anger? Okay. Obviously, Ricki is a singer and that was all she could offer. BUT come on! Streep may have nailed Bruce Springsteen’s ‘My Love Will Not Let You Down’ BUT, no disrespect to The Boss, I don’t think everyone would be raving to it at a wedding.

Predictable and a little too hammy for me. Streep was superb and the cast did their best. If it wasn’t for them, this could have been a very dull affair.

2.5/5

*NEW* ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL REVIEW *NEW*

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A challenging dramedy in more ways than one. A promising cast reprieve a surprisingly patchy affair.

High schooler Greg (Thomas Mann), who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl (RJ Cryler), finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate (Olivia Cooke) who has just been diagnosed with cancer.

I’m not going to lie. I was left wanting and a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s highly watchable BUT the tone and pace was all over the place.

From the strange opening sequence, I was scratching my head. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with the Jesse Andrews novel. This film has certainly made me want to seek it out. Just to see if I was missing out on something.

The strange animation reminded me of a Wes Anderson pic. Never a bad thing. We watch as an animated Greg chomps spaghetti while the “hot girl from Pussy Riot” serenades him by playing the harp. In a nutshell, we were being introduced to the quirky inner workings of Greg’s mind. The social outcast. The narrator of the story.

Very strange. BUT intriguing. We watch this crafty chameleon who does his best to blend in with all the social groups; the drama people, the goths, etc. Just enough to keep everyone at bay. I could relate to Greg in more ways than one. Hiding in a film fortress with his “work colleague” Earl.

Thomas Mann was very good as Greg and delivered the role with enough wit, charm and charisma. It made for easygoing viewing as we delved into Greg’s set up. Unable to call Earl a friend with the fear he might reject the label.

Once Cryler was given the opportunity to shine, he delivered. It took a while for Earl to make a mark. Reduced to muttering the word “titties” BUT once the film got going, they made a great duo.

You may remember Olivia Cooke from the hit show, Bates Motel. She was fantastic as Rachel. She delivered a sterling performance and worked well with Mann. The pair had great chemistry.

I loved the classic film references. The nods to François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard ticked all the boxes for the cinephile in me. The funny play on titles was a nice touch. A Sockwork Orange being a particular highlight.

The film video segments reminded me very much of Be Kind Rewind. A surreal mish mesh of Gondry meets Anderson. Low budget indie madness. BUT unfortunately like it’s counterpart, it seemed to suffer from the same flaws.

The tone was very testing. Charming and funny in one instant with Greg’s verbal diarrhea inevitably putting him into more awkward situations and then dreadfully slow and dark the next. Most notably when Rachel’s condition deteriorates.

There’s no easy way to capture an illness and the effects. It was a testing cross examination as we see Rachel’s smile and health fade. Greg doing everything he can to try and keep things quirky and light.

The hour marker certainly took the easygoing pace down a notch as tempers flared and decisions were made. It was acted well and made for engaging drama in parts. BUT the pace hampered an intriguing piece.

What didn’t help was the fact that the little films took the attention away from the actual story between the three friends. I understand that the film making was Greg’s way of coping with life BUT it went on too long. And the final film the pair made for Rachel was a load of rubbish in my opinion.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon didn’t make full use of the fantastic supporting cast. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) didn’t do a bad job as the chilled history teacher. An incident involving the lads and some soup led to some funny moments.

Molly Shannon’s cougar making advances at the two young men was a mixed bag for me. I found the whole thing strangely uncomfortable. Supplying them with booze and flirting with Greg. Weird.

I wish there was more of Bobb’e J. Thompson as Earl’s brother, Derrick. And cudos to Karriem Sami who managed to make a memorable impression in 30 seconds as the limo driver. That’s all I’m saying on that one. Oh and the Hugh Jackman scene. Brilliant.

Connie Britton was wasted in her role as Greg’s Mom. I know that the parents were never to be the focal point of this piece. BUT with such talented actors portraying good characters, it would have been nice to seen more of them. She set Greg’s story in motion and then only reappeared in the final scenes.

Nick Offerman’s trippy tenured father was very hit and miss for me. Offering a cat to console Greg as he attempts to break bad news . . . Yes. Waffling on about obscure grub. NOT so much.

The closing moments made for tough viewing. Even for the cynic in me. It struck a lump in my throat as Greg struggles with school, life and the possibility of losing a friend he never expected to have.

I felt the final third got increasingly serious and killed the buzz that had helped zipped the film along. And the ending was quite abrupt for me. It just ended.

BUT luckily, good characters, great acting and good moments still make this one to watch. BUT the strange style and uneven pacing hampered something that could have been so much more.

3/5