*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

*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

SAVING MR BANKS REVIEW

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

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Thank you for saving me from burning my Unlimited card!

A pleasant surprise to come out of the cinema after a film with a smile. An easygoing, heartwarming, brilliantly written and superbly acted drama.

Be warned, there will be no rant or comical anecdote. The critic in me is in action. Apologies.

Now for those who aren’t familiar, I have an Unlimited card which entitles me to see whatever I want at the cinema. A challenge that has drained me.

I have found it incredibly difficult to answer people when they ask, “What’s your top 10 this year?”. I feel that films this year have either failed to hit the mark, contained brilliant BUT poorly executed concepts or were merely poor rehashes of classics that didn’t need to be touched in the first place. However, I may finally have a contender to add to my 10.

Now, I’m a fan of

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HOMEFRONT REVIEW

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

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Have faith in the Stath. Even if the film’s a little . . . Well . . .

Do you love action movies? Do you love Jason Statham? Do you care about plot or feasible story lines? No? Let me guess. Do you like your movies served explosive with a side order of violence? Then this is for you.

If you’re a Stath nut, then in the roster of his works, this falls short. Although not his worst, I’ll leave that to Hummingbird, it still had nothing on Crank or the epic Transporter films (Minus Part 3).

Written by Sylvester “The ExpendablesStallone, Homefront is about a former DEA agent Phil Broker (Statham) who retires to the rural Deep South, after a botched operation, with his young daughter (Izabela Vidovic). What starts off as a little playground fight between Stath’s little ‘un and one of…

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THE FAMILY REVIEW

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

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The people who made this will be sleeping with the fishes . . .

The Manzoni family, a notorious mafia clan, is relocated to Normandy, France under the witness protection program, where fitting in soon becomes challenging as their old habits die hard.

With such a strong cast and production team (Martin “GoodfellasScorsese and Luc “Leon” Besson), how could The Family be such a ridiculously unfunny and drawn out affair? De Niro applied his usual gangster schtick BUT to no avail. Especially when we’ve seen him poke fun at himself before and a whole lot better. Just watch Analyze This. Hell, even check out the mediocre sequel.

Luckily De Niro and Pfeiffer were a great pairing. BUT Dianna Agron (Stunning though she is. What?) plays such a flat character. Her silly little love subplot with her French teacher was so cliched. A shame considering the potential she…

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FREE BIRDS REVIEW

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

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A few strikes short of a turkey with this one, I’m afraid.

A 90 minute mish mash of animated buffoonery that couldn’t even keep the kids in the cinema interested.

Two turkeys enter a time machine in a government facility and go back to the first Thanksgiving in the 16th Century to get their race off the menu. (Yup, you read that right)

After a fantastic 3D opening credit sequence, I could feel my interest wavering like the hammy plot line. We deal with the usual spiel of the loner turkey Reggie (voiced by Owen Wilson) who is rejected, from the farmhouse flock, for being different.

His constant urge to break the mould leads to his exile and a hazy plot involving a pardon from the President of the United States. Bizarre. I don’t mind sitting for 90 minutes with an animated feature BUT it has to be either; a) watchable…

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*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