*NEW* CREED REVIEW *NEW*

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We may have seen it all before BUT Jordan’s performance packs a punch and does enough to hold its own.

The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).

From the opening sequence, I knew Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) was the perfect choice. Prepping for a underground boxing fight in the deep Mexican underbelly. Built like a machine and punching walls to psych himself up.

Presence, charisma and charm. I knew he had the potential and Creed was the perfect platform. His back story had enough to hold its own. The boy desperate to forge his own legacy. The illegitimate son of a boxing legend. A hot head creating his own destruction.

The slow burning pace had the tendency to drag in places BUT I was still engaged as Don tried to make his own way from his tough upbringing. In and out of foster care. I felt his relationship with Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad – The Cosby Show) wasn’t explored enough. More could have made. Especially after rescuing the poor boy from a detention facility. She was only really brought back in the closing minutes after a harsh warning about following in his father’s footsteps.

The sparring sequences were done well. The little stats and figures flashing up over each boxer that Creed challenged was a good touch. Desperate NOT to use his father’s name, Don struggles to get any one to train him. That is until he gets in touch with an old friend.

Welcome back Rock. As soon as the Italian Stallion made his intro, I was hooked. Jordan and Stallone made a great duo. The usual training montages were funny and still entertained. The punching bag, the skipping rope BUT alas! NO meat punching in the freezers (Steady now) this time. Ol’ Sly’s running commentary kept things light. I was gutted after all the little nods to Rocky that he didn’t make Don drink raw eggs.

The problem was that being a Rocky fan, he was always going to steal the show. You really felt for the old boy as he sat alone at the cemetery reading the paper to Adrian’s grave. And when the Champ received some bad news, it got me a little bit. It was a fitting swansong for the iconic and ageing boxer. One of Stallone’s best performances from arguably one of his best characters. He was funny, charming and there were some genuinely touching scenes.

I liked the blossoming romance between Don and Bianca. Jordan and Tessa Thompson (Selma) had great chemistry. It was a shame that her character got pushed into the background as the film carried on.

Tony Bellew played the cocky light heavyweight champ Conlan to perfection. The perfect villain for the piece. Making money out of fighting a Creed. Despite Don only having one official fight under his belt. The fight sequences were brilliantly captured. You could hear and feel every punch. A bit of a contrast from the dated Apollo/Rocky boxing scraps. The camera angles were a little disorienting at times. You just wanted them to stay static and film the match.

Coogler did indulge in the schmaltz a little too much for the closing act. Johnson’s Rocky homage came off a little hammy. Running up a battered street with a bunch of kids on mopeds just didn’t quite have the same buzz as the famous step run. 

Some might argue that Creed is just a continuation. BUT is there any other way to tell an underdog story in boxing? If the characters are interesting enough, I’m happy to roll with the punches. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. As finales go, it was a little too corny. BUT you still couldn’t help but get caught up in it. Rooting for the underdog. Yet after all that build up, the big fight was a little too quick cut and rushed for me.

Creed tied into the Rocky anthology well and was even able to make its own mark. Very much like the protagonist. BUT that wasn’t going to be hard. Come on. Rocky III, IV and V were guilty pleasures.

A little predictable and corny in parts BUT a fitting swansong from Sly and a fresh blood performance from Jordan makes this worth a watch.

3.5/5

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*NEW* THE 5TH WAVE REVIEW *NEW*

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Corny, dull, laughable. Another Hunger Games inspired mess floods the silver screen.

Four waves of increasingly deadly alien attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother (Zackary Arthur).

The premise seemed a little hokey BUT with Hit Girl at the helm, I thought this could be watchable. Oh how wrong I was. The first half hour wasn’t too bad and zipped along and after a strong and tense opener, my hopes were still quite high. BUT it just went downhill from there.

The quick cliched set up through flashbacks did the job. The inevitable high school guff was a little dull BUT was quickly skimmed through. Thankfully. Watching Chloe loving life, soccer and boys. Awww. Yuck. That was until the end of the world.

The four waves of attack were quite frantic and pacey. The CGI wasn’t too bad either as tsunamis consumed cities and the aliens made their tacky Independence Day introduction. The virus outbreak through strains of bird flu was an interesting prospect that was breezed over. Things looked to pick up when the aliens began to control the remaining survivors. Looked being the primary word.

Moretz did the best with her role BUT the cliched high school girl spiel can only be done so many times. She may have got away with it in If I Stay BUT it didn’t work this time around. Her droll diary entries put me into a mild coma.

Ron Livingston (Office Space) and Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy) were wasted as Chloe’s parents. They did their best BUT anyone could have played them. It didn’t help after all the promise of alien attacks, we were subjected to a mindless romance subplot that went nowhere.

Alex Roe played the charismatic stranger Evan Walker well. BUT the inevitable blossoming romance was nauseating. I was bored. I wasn’t interested. It might have worked better if it wasn’t so corny or laughable. The endless staring and cheesy exchanges was too much. A scene in which Evan is cleansing himself in the lake with his shirt off was hysterical. Come on.

I was more intrigued with the idea of kids being recruited as soldiers to fight off the enemy. A daunting prospect with children being the only ones able to detect who are being controlled by the aliens. It wasn’t explored enough or used to its full potential.

A shame considering Maria Bello (Coyote Ugly) and Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) were the leading authorities. Bello made a more memorable impression as the sinister sergeant than Schreiber. He was reduced to standing in a command centre and looking menacing. The guy can act. Let him. Dreadful.

Instead we had another dull subplot with Chloe’s high school flame Ben or Zombie (Nick Robinson – Jurassic World) endure military training. Robinson was a likeable lead BUT the cliched military montages and his clashes with Maika Monroe’s (It Follows) bratty army reject just slowed this piece down to a snail’s pace.

The twists, if you could call them that, were terrible. You could see them coming a mile off. This felt like another regurgitation of Hunger Games and Divergent with much weaker results. I couldn’t understand why this received a 15 rating. It wasn’t that violent or dark enough.

We know that Moretz can play a strong female lead. So why did we have a whiny, pining teenage girl? She only really got to step up in the final 20 minutes as she attempted to rescue her brother. A case of too little, too late for me. Rushing for a frantic finale that left everything open.

For those familiar with Rick Yancey’s novel, you already know that there’s more to come. BUT if the next offering is going to be anything like this feeble effort, then the plans for a franchise might be end quicker than the aliens’ plans for Earth.

And I thought The Host was a chore. An adaptation that earned no sequels. The endless teen bestseller adaptations is getting silly. Retreading and replicating the same old spiel. Give us something different. Original if possible.

Weak characters, a laughable story and a cliched premise makes this one to forget.

2/5

*NEW* THE LAST WITCH HUNTER REVIEW *NEW*

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Hopefully this will be the last.

The last witch hunter (Vin Diesel) is all that stands between humanity and the combined forces of the most horrifying witches in history.

I really wanted to like this. This had the perfect ingredients for a guilty pleasure. BUT all it did was leave me screaming like one of the tortured witches.

The opening was ridiculous. Come on, Vin Diesel with hair? Farfetched already. BUT it was watchable enough as Vin’s Kaulder and his band of miserable medieval men stake out a coven. Despite the frenetic violent sequence, it was too dark and disorienting to see who was doing what. I lost track of who was killing who? Heavy censorship to keep the 12A rating? Maybe.

It wasn’t long before our hero was cursed in the dying breath of a bizarre looking witch. Cursed with immortality. Flash forward to the present with ol’ baldy. Not sure what accent Diesel was trying to pull off BUT either way you couldn’t tell because he was so inaudible. His gruffest yet. He was far too serious for his own good. Laughable for all the wrong reasons.

Michael Caine’s priest was one of the better characters and he was barely in it! He quickly set up the back story about the truce between the witches and humans, cracked a couple of one liners and then sat this one out. His presence was sorely missed. Shame considering how well he worked with Diesel. They would have been a great duo and Vin seemed to lighten up with the old chap.

Instead we had Elijah Wood. Now, don’t get me wrong. I would have banked on Frodo to deliver the goods BUT his squeaky clean priest was too weak and annoying. BUT he didn’t come quite as close to irritating me as much as Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) did.

She tried to provide a much needed comic relief as Chloe the witch barmaid roped into Diesel’s chaotic world. BUT her voice grated against me and frankly did my nut in. I kept expecting her to say, “You know nothhhinggg”.

Julie Engelbrecht’s appropriately titled baddie Witch Queen was terrible. She may have looked the part with her messed up make up BUT she was far too bland and unmemorable to make a real impression.

I really hoped that this would have been like Constantine. That perfect balance of dark and crazy. BUT for the majority of the piece, I was bored. The pace dipped in and out. The story was weak. And even when the action kicked in, I had already lost interest.

That’s NOT to say it didn’t have its moments. BUT there weren’t a lot. A scene in which Diesel must get information from a witch at a fashion show allowed for a demented encounter in which the mirrors showed the models’ true reflections. I wanted more of that.

BUT even then the CGI tested Van Helsing levels. Incredible in one shot, cartoony and naff the next. There was a revelation 75 minutes into the movie which made the last 30 minutes a little more bearable.

Wood and Diesel’s partnership only got going in the final act. BUT even then the corny exchanges were too much. It was too generic, predictable, cliched and dull.

NOT Diesel’s worst BUT it wasn’t far off. I’m digging through my old DVDs for Constantine to erase the memory of this mess.

2/5

*NEW* HE NAMED ME MALALA REVIEW *NEW*

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An interesting if patchy insight into the influential teen.

A look at the events leading up to the Taliban’s attack on Pakistani schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, for speaking out on girls’ education followed by the aftermath, including her speech to the United Nations.

A wonderfully animated opening didn’t really set the pace for me. BUT it showed the origins behind Malala’s name. Influenced by the Afghani folk hero Malalai of Maiwand who rallied the local people against the British soldiers in 1880. A touching but disjointed sequence.

Malala was an entertaining and engaging presence. It was a nice touch seeing her with the family. Laughing and joking with her little brothers who drop her in it at every possible opportunity. The first hour was slow burning but very interesting as the documentary flicked back and forth from the Yousafzai’s Birmingham retreat to the Taliban militancy controlling the Swat Valley in Pakistan.

We all know the story of Malala to some capacity. BUT I didn’t truly understand the events or the background that led to that fateful day. I didn’t realise what the Taliban were actually doing. Misinterpreting the Qur’an for their own agenda. Banning TV, girls’ education and women from shopping. Dictating from their speakers to the village below on what shall be.

I was shocked at what happened to her. Shot for going to school. It was tense watching her go through surgery even though we knew the outcome. To be so understanding and calm knowing that she might not be able to smile properly again or feel on one side of her face. Her Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech gave me goosebumps and with all the Cyruses and Biebers of the world, it was good to see a proper role model for the younger generation.

BUT as much as Malala’s defiance marked a turning point. There wasn’t much else to the piece. Repeatedly regurgitating the same news footage and providing different animated segments and cartoons of the same story got a little tedious.

It didn’t really feel like a rounded argument. Just one perspective. What disappointed me was that Malala was pushed into the background of her own story. We were force fed a lot of the same debate by her father who took a more prominent turn. I have to agree with some critics that the film seemed to lose its voice.

Understandably, this issue has only scraped the surface and for all of Malala’s campaigning, there is still a lot of work to do. Her tours around the world meeting significant political figures hampered down the pace and talking can only get things moving so far. It allowed for some surprising statistics as we explore other countries that share this backward way of thinking. 

This brave girl has done so much and she’s only 18 BUT as a film and a commentary, it felt incomplete. The pace dipped in and out and despite a cheesy and empowering message to the little ‘uns out there, it just didn’t quite fit the tone. Interesting BUT muddled.

3/5

*NEW* KILL YOUR FRIENDS REVIEW *NEW*

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Hoult delivers a killer performance. Shame. The rest of the film didn’t.

An A&R man (Nicholas Hoult) working at the height of the Britpop music craze goes to extremes in order to find his next hit.

He’s come a long way from About A Boy. Channeling his inner Patrick Bateman, Nicholas Hoult kills in this patchy BUT strangely watchable satire.

The demented opening sequence certainly set the tone. You knew what you were getting yourself into. Hoult’s cocky snake charmer had a hypnotic effect. He really carried the piece. Casually talking about how bad music has gotten while shooting up cocaine and urinating on a trampy looking James Corden.

You read that, right? Disgusted. Then this won’t be for you. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Stelfox is a monster. He has NO remorse and will NOT stop. Ambitious doesn’t even come close to describing how far the man will go to climb up the ladder.

The film gave an American Psycho meets 24 Hour Party People vibe. I’m NOT familiar with the John Niven novel BUT I will certainly be adding this to my reading list. Unfortunately book lovers, I can’t make comparisons. BUT when does a film ever top a book?

I did feel a little nostalgic as the film went back to the 90s indie scene. Junkie XL delivers another decent soundtrack. NOT quite Mad Max proportions BUT with Blur, Oasis and The Prodigy on the playlist, I was content.

The insults aimed at the music industry hit too close to home. Most notably with Moritz Bleibtrau’s (Run Lola Run) eccentric performance as the sex craved Eurotrash DJ Rudi. A derivative club anthem breaking the charts left, right and centre with some lazy bass and repetitive lyrics. Music really hasn’t changed.

Stelfox’s preaching about integrity and authentic music soon laughed off when he gets a nice pay check from signing the mad desk jockey. BUT at the same time, it did feel a tad dated with all the A & R scouting and sound house gigs. Not many sound houses going around my neck of the woods any more.

With Stelfox constantly breaking the fourth wall and narrating, it reminded me a little of Filth BUT the subject matter just wasn’t as controversial or satirical enough. His obsession to beat a rival A & R scout (Tom Riley – Da Vinci’s Demons) was ridiculous. Resorting to all sorts of desperate measures.

Hoult was a tour de force BUT after a while, there wasn’t much else going on. Once he snorted and swallowed some drugs here and effed and jeffed there, it soon got very repetitive. Despite being a great platform for an underrated British cast, they weren’t given the best characters. Craig Roberts (Submarine) might as well have been non-existent as Stelfox’s underling. Whether that was the intention is another matter. Edward Hogg’s (Bunny and the Bull) dimwitted detective was irritating. Every time he stumbled into a scene, I could feel my interest waning.

Corden was wasted in his role. He looked the part BUT was pushed into the background for the majority of the film. The only real laugh I got out of his character Waters was that despite Stelfox’s best efforts to destroy his reputation, the powers that be were still considering him due to experience.

Ed Skrein delivered a much more convincing turn than his performance in The Transporter Refueled as Rent. The self-made manager trying to find the next Spice Girls in a group of Jeremy Kyle rejects. Georgia King’s (Cockneys Vs. Zombies) didn’t do a bad job as Stelfox’s manipulative PA. It was a shame that her character only got interesting in the closing minutes when it was too little, too late.

The only problem with these sort of films was that there was only ever going to be two outcomes. And despite a ridiculously crazy and bizarre drug-induced finale, the end result was still a little too predictable and abrupt for my liking.

The pace may have lagged and the plot a little weak. BUT a stellar turn from Hoult makes this dark mess worth a watch.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* BRIDGE OF SPIES REVIEW *NEW*

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I spy a cracking little drama.

You can always bank on Hanks (Had to be careful typing that)

During the Cold War, an American lawyer (Tom Hanks) is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy (Mark Rylance) in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell).

After a somewhat slow opener with a French Connection style stake out with a group of CIA agents following Rylance’s Rudolf Abel, I wasn’t sure what to expect. BUT as we delved into a reasonably dull and mundane day of reconnaissance with an old man painting a bridge, I realized there was more than meets the eye.

If anything, that opening sequence indicated perfectly what to expect. A slow burning thriller with a rewarding pay-off. This was a return to form for Spielberg. Perhaps it helped that he had a winning talisman in Hanks.

Hanks proved once again why he is one of the best. A powerhouse performance. I can’t believe this was a true story. A reluctant lawyer takes on a case that would change everything. Anxious to deal with the heated Cold War paranoia and the shark infested media BUT determined to give a government traitor his right to a fair trial.

Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall) was superb as Abel. If anything, there wasn’t enough of him. He had a great rapport with Hanks and they made a great duo. Donovan’s fascination with Abel sets the wheels in motion for a bigger play. He couldn’t believe how this man, who was one of the most hated people in the country, was only concerned about having some time to paint?

Donovan even asks: “Aren’t you worried?” Without the bat of an eye, Abel simply says “Would it help?”. A great one liner and cracking delivery.

This felt like a film of two halves. For the first act, we watched the press slander, the authorities hinder and the community shun Donovan for simply doing his job. While that was being played out, I wondered where this training subplot involving Austin Stowell’s (Whiplash) pilot Francis Gary Powers was going. It was intriguing as the pilot was assigned a top secret mission BUT it felt a little disjointed to Donovan and Abel’s case.

However, all would be revealed and a suspenseful second half was soon on the cards. With Powers captured, Donovan must trade Abel for his release. Once Donovan arrived in Berlin, I was hooked. The tension. The cryptic conversations with the Russian Embassy. The bartering with the meddling Germans desperate to get their piece of the action as they take their own prisoner, an American economics student. Sebastian Koch (The Lives of Others) was brilliant as the stubborn Wolfgang Vogel.

I couldn’t believe that Donovan went through all this. No support or backing. An “unsanctioned” operation being the CIA’s defense if things go wrong. The game of cat and mouse heading to an exciting and incredibly tense stand off.

That’s not to say the film was perfect. The stellar supporting cast featuring Alan Alda (M*A*S*H) and Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) were neglected with very minor roles BUT they were always going to play second fiddle to Hanks. The pace did drop in parts and 142 minutes might have been pushing it BUT I was still engaged.

Nitpicking aside, this was a brilliantly acted and well crafted spy thriller and one of my top films of 2015.

4/5

*NEW* DADDY’S HOME REVIEW *NEW*

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Daddy should have stayed away.

Marky Mark and Ron Burgundy take each other on in a mediocre reunion.

Stepdad, Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell), is a radio host trying to get his stepchildren to love him and call him Dad. But his plans turn upside down when the biological father, Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) returns.

Not bad. If you’re expecting The Other Guys 2, you might be left a little disappointed. We open to a ridiculously OTT sequence with Ferrell’s sickly sweet Brad praising fatherhood. Well, step-fatherhood. He plays the dim-witted simpleton so well. It doesn’t even feel like the guy’s acting. He’s a natural. Happy to have a family even if his delightful step kids draw demented doodles of him with a knife in his head and “homeless man poop” for hair. His response? Relief. Relieved that he’s NO longer dead in the pictures.

It’s easygoing enough BUT not quite as laugh out loud or as engaging as I hoped. Things pick up when Wahlberg makes his introduction. The game afoot from the get go as Dusty leaves Brad waiting at the airport.

The pace dipped in and out as Brad’s naive step dad is repeatedly duped and manipulated by the ultra cool Dusty. The 12A rating restricted the pair from really pushing the envelope. I missed the random improv that they had in The Other Guys. Don’t get me wrong. They still had that chemistry and worked well off each other. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think it would have worked.

The OTT stunts were stupid BUT delivered the laughs. Ferrell trying to showboat on a motorbike resorted in half the house being renovated. A back yard skate off drew some unexpected laughs BUT soon went on far too long. And that was the problem for me.

For every snappy one liner and crafty gag, there were a dozen duds. Thomas Haden Church’s (Sideways) radio producer was a mixed bag. If it wasn’t for his random stories that had no relevance, I would have cut him out altogether. The kids were funny. To be honest, they could have been in it more. The stunning Linda Cardellini (ER) was far too straight faced in this mad mess. The running gag with Griff (Hannibal Buress) the handyman overstayed its welcome like the character. Seriously, it really annoyed the hell out of me.

The whole “he’s better at you in every way” spiel was a little predictable. BUT that wasn’t to say that it didn’t deliver. Dusty’s fairy tale bed time story of the wicked step king wasn’t too bad and the endless battles to outdo each other on giving the kids presents or saying good night had a chuckle here and there.

Bobby Cannavale (Ant Man) was terrible in his cameo as a fertility doctor. Merely setting up a gag for the pair to draw swords (If you catch my drift). The recurring gag of Marky Mark without a shirt pops up yet again. It didn’t quite work as well as Date Night BUT I’m sure the ladies won’t be complaining. Performing crunches and lifts while Ferrell watches in awe.

Brad’s desperation to win the family back got the better laughs. His drunken meltdown at a basketball stadium had me in stitches. I may have shook my head at the nauseating father/daughter dance finale BUT I couldn’t resist the buffoonery of Wahlberg and Ferrell.

It did feel like a case of the “best bits in the trailer”. If you were lucky NOT to see them than it might be a bit more entertaining. It was all far too cheesy, OTT and a little slow at times. If NOT for Gamble and Hoitz, I mean Brad and Dusty, this would have been a write-off. It killed the time BUT not their best.

2.5/5