*NEW* BASTILLE DAY REVIEW *NEW*

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BLAST-ILLE DAY! Or Luther pick-pockets Paris with that guy from Game of Thrones.

An entertaining and explosive little actioner that does the job.

A young con artist (Richard Madden) and former CIA agent (Idris Elba) embark on an anti-terrorist mission in France.

An eye-grabbing opener certainly got things going as a naked woman (What?) paraded around the Sacre Coeur. A perfect distraction for Madden’s master thief as we watch him do what he does best; pick pockets.

It was quick to skim through the frankly dull and clichéd police guff as Elba’s wildcard Briar is assigned to France against his superior’s (A heavily underused Kelly Reilly) better judgement. You couldn’t get anybody better than ol’ Luther (I mean Mr Elba) to play a stern no-holds-barred copper that does what it takes to get results.

Elba certainly did his best with the wafer thin role. His gravelly voice and stern delivery making the most generic of lines sound not quite so terrible. Madden was a charismatic lead. He has popped up in a number of different roles since GoT. One to watch. At least his troubled pick-pocket had a little more depth.

Most importantly when the bag he steals contains a bomb. Completely unaware, our small time petty thief dumps the bag, triggering the bomb and unleashing a mad packed chase around Paris.

The plot delivered enough suspense and cryptic puzzle solving for the first hour. A bigger play always in the work. BUT once the unravelling began, there were more questions than answers by the closing minutes.

If anything, it was a little ridiculous and oh so dreadfully predictable BUT what did you expect from a shoot em up? The action sequences were well executed. Tense, frantic and violent as hell. A rooftop chase was choreographed brilliantly. Nail-biting stuff.

Madden and Elba weren’t a bad duo. They worked well together BUT it just felt that with a better script and some better characters, this could have been so much more. It could have done with a little more banter and humour.

Some of the jokes just didn’t quite polish off as well as they could have. That’s not to say that there weren’t moments to be enjoyed. When an angry Briar finally catches Madden’s Michael and demands why he ran. Michael simply responds: “Have you seen yourself . . . You’d run to”.

Charlotte Le Bon (The Walk) played the conflicted resistance fighter well. It was just a shame that her character was pushed into the background once Madden and Elba were united. Only re-surfacing for the the mad dash finale.

Anybody could have played Kelly Reilly’s (True Detective) handler. And despite trying to involve her character (in a highly predictable twist) three quarters of the way into the film, you soon realised how unnecessary her character was. Disappointing.

Just when I thought the pace was lagging and the cliched exchanges were beginning to rear their ugly heads, I was soon rewarded with a frentic, in-your-face finale that was everything I expected.

It may have missed an opportunity BUT it was still an action packed thriller that hit the spot and killed the time. If you were expecting anything else, then move on.

3/5 (Just)

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*NEW* THE REVENANT REVIEW *NEW*

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A revelation? An Oscar worthy performance from the man of the hour?

In a nutshell, NO.

A frontiersman (Leonardo DiCaprio) on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.

Overlong, over-rated and disappointing. I really wanted to like this. For all the praise, Twitter craze and reviews, I expected a well-acted visceral and brutal tour de force with one man seeking vengeance. Is this really the film that gave Leonardo his overdue Oscar? Really?

The first 45 minutes were slow burning BUT engrossing. Inarritu’s long takes used to full effect. A tense encounter with a pack of bloodthirsty natives made for a tense and brutal watch. It was a shame that momentum wasn’t kept for the rest of the piece.

DiCaprio delivered a good turn. There’s no quarrelling about that. BUT an Oscar? He certainly carried the piece as much as he could. BUT there was only so many picturesque landscape shots (from the Oscar winning and Innaritu stalwart Emmanuel Lubezki) and grunting from the leading man that could keep me interested.

I was more impressed by the underrated British and Irish supporting cast. Domhnall Gleeson continues to impress yet again in another scene stealing supporting role (Ex Machina and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Will Poulter (The Maze Runner) was equally as good as the conflicted Bridger. A great transition from the Son of Rambow star.

And once you were able to understand Tom Hardy’s (Legend) incessant Southern mumbling, he was the perfect foe. He really looked the part. A weasel of the lowest denomination. Back stabbing and plotting at any given opportunity. If it wasn’t for Hardy’s performance, I don’t think I would have persevered to see the outcome.

The grizzly bear attack sequence was nail-biting stuff. The animation and a little improv from DiCap made this a tense show down and almost realistic, to an extent. The elongated attack kept me on tenterhooks. Thinking our hero was safe. Only for the grizzly menace to come back for more.

The only problem was that the rest of the film was spent watching DiCap crawl, growl and shiver across the frozen terrain and woodland. Broken up by metaphorical imagery and flashbacks that were pretty self-explanatory. I was more interested in Hugh (DiCap) and Hawk’s (Forrest Goodluck) relationship. Something that was barely touched on and reduced to a few scenes.

DiCap really went through it. Putting his Bear Grylls skills to work. Chewing raw fish and enduring arctic conditions. BUT I wasn’t hooked. I wanted to be rooting for the guy from the first minute. Tom Hank’s turn in Cast Away had me transfixed. I never felt so sad about a man losing his volleyball. Matt Damon’s Oscar nominated turn in The Martian had me praying for his return home.

I love Innaritu’s works. Birdman was one of my favourite films of 2015. It was different and featured a resurgent performance from Keaton. DiCaprio is a superb actor BUT I felt that he got the Oscar for the wrong film.

A good portion of Hugh’s “journey” tested my patience. I don’t need horse back chases and natives attacking every minute of the movie to keep my attention (Although it might have helped) BUT for two and a half hours, I needed something more. The showdown made for a redemptive finale in every aspect. Both for our hero and yours truly. And that was down to Hardy’s turn. I really wanted to see him get his comeuppance.

Maybe this was a case of too much hype. From all the reviews, you would have thought that nobody had ever seen a Western before. The plot was hardly original, the pace was too much and DiCaprio did his best BUT I would struggle to watch this again. Let alone put this on a top movie list.

Watchable BUT nowhere near as rewarding as I’d hoped.

3/5

*NEW* GOOSEBUMPS REVIEW *NEW*

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Black is back!

Corny, frantic BUT highly watchable.

A teenager (Dylan Minnette – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) teams up with the daughter (Odeya Rush – The Giver) of young adult horror author R. L. Stine (Jack Black – School of Rock) after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

The opening 20 minutes was easy going enough as Minnette’s Zach moved to a new town and (even worse) a new school. And if that wasn’t bad enough. His own mother (Amy Ryan – Birdman) is the new vice principal! I liked the dynamic between Ryan and Minnette. It was a little disappointing to see that thrown out of the window for a cheesy little romance subplot between Zach and the mysterious girl next door Hannah (Rush).

Don’t get me wrong, the pair had good chemistry BUT it was all a little too schmaltzy for my liking. Thankfully it wasn’t too long before the obsessive Stine (Black) made his introduction. Welcome back, Mr Black. As soon as the big man kept randomly popping up at windows and fences, threatening Zach at every opportunity to stay away from Hannah, I was entertained.

It was a different side to Black. More subdued and obnoxious. Not quite as loud or in your face. BUT still on scene stealing form. He has been missed. And with Kung Fu Panda 3 fighting its way at the box office, we will be spoiled.

“If there’s danger, I will run the other way”. Ryan Lee (Super 8) was brilliant as social misfit Champ.

For fans of the real Goosebump books, all the little references were there. The whole magic spiel was a different take. Every creation Stine ever wrote coming to life. All the silly creatures that used to frighten you as a little ‘un (and may still do) were all there.

Slappy the dummy was the one that always freaked me out. And lo and behold, guess who made a special appearance? Black provides his sinister voice-over skills to bring the terrifying toy to life. Slappy’s movie makeover wasn’t quite as spine-tingling as his TV series counterpart. BUT I’ll let you be the judge.

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Shudder. Moving on . . .

The special effects were actually quite good. The 3D gimmick wasn’t missed so save your pennies. I couldn’t really pick any moments that would have better with it. The effects weren’t too cartoony BUT this is a kid’s film, let’s not forget. Can’t creep em out too much now. That’s not to say there weren’t a few jumpy bits that might have got the best of yours truly (What?).

The adorable BUT highly violent garden gnomes suggested a darker undertone and gave me that old Gremlins nostalgia as the gang fought wave after wave of them in the kitchen.

It was silly, a little cheesy BUT good fun as our dysfunctional heroes try to get every creature back in their paperback prisons. The endless statistics that Black spewed up about Stine’s career were all true. Believe me, I checked. Selling more novels than Stephen King?! A passing cameo delivering the perfect punch line.

BUT that’s not to say it was perfect. Just like Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Paper Towns, Halston Sage was type cast (yet again) as another high school damsel in distress. Anyone could have played her and, by the end, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

Amy Ryan was cast aside and reduced to nothing more than a naff running joke with her character avoiding the awkward advances of Ken Marino’s (We’re The Millers) high school coach. Unfunny and a real waste of another actress.

My main issue however, was despite this being a mad little movie; it felt rushed. Not enough of Stine’s ghastly ghouls were brought into the mix. Too many of them were quickly thrown in at the last minute that you couldn’t tell what was what.

It just seemed to push for a frantic finale after all that build up. Veep’s Timothy Simons was heavily underused as dimwitted Officer Stevens. More gags could have made with the guy. He had me in stitches in the two scenes he was lucky to feature in.

BUT grumbling aside, coming from a GB fan, this was a silly little blast from the past. It wasn’t perfect (and didn’t quite top the iconic TV series that ruined my childhood) BUT I could think of worst things to kill the time with the little ‘uns.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* SPOTLIGHT REVIEW *NEW*

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A slow burning, well-crafted and brilliantly acted little drama.

Spotlight is the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. One that would shake the entire Catholic Church to its core.

An intriguing opening sequence piqued my curiousity as we witnessed a priest being released from the police station. No questions asked. A shrug from the police and two priests riding off into the darkness.

BUT after that promising opener, the first twenty minutes was a little too slow for my liking. I could feel myself slumping into the seat as we waited for the stellar news team to find their story. Once Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber – Ray Donovan) was brought to the fold and Spotlight’s sights were set on a priest, that was a repeat offender, I was hooked to the very end.

Schreiber was very good as the mysterious Miami media man. Taking on the Boston Globe and determined to use Spotlight’s abilities to their fullest. I wanted to see more of his performance. BUT it wasn’t his story. The Spotlight cast couldn’t be faltered. It’s great to see Micheal Keaton’s resurgence after Birdman. He played Walter ‘Robby Robinson’ with aplomb.

I felt every one had their moment to shine. I wasn’t sure why Ruffalo in particular was considered for an Oscar nomination BUT it was still a sterling turn from the Avenger. His anger coming to boiling point at the scale of this horrific cover up in a fantastic rant.

“Mitchell Garabedian. He’s a character”. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Stanley Tucci (Hunger Games) to take on the paranoid skeptic. A lawyer intent on getting justice for his clients. Treading carefully. Afraid that the Church are watching his every move. Not enough of him.

The lies, the cover ups. Afraid to mess with the Church. A “holy” institution that took advantage of so many. The statements from witnesses was harrowing stuff alone. Confused children sleeping with priests because they were afraid to “refuse” God.

Just when I couldn’t be more surprised at the stories and the statistics, the team would discover another revelation. One that was too close for comfort for one member of the team. Discovering that a treatment centre for “reformed priests” was located right around the corner from his home.

Rachel McAdams’ (True Detective) crazy confrontation with said “reformed” priest was baffling. Openly admitting to everything. John Slattery did his best BUT he will always be Roger Sterling from Mad Men. The office attire and quick witted one liners didn’t help his case.

The closing act, aided by more harrowing facts, really hit home. I couldn’t believe that the original news story was “buried” years before. And the scale. So many stories. The States being only the tip of the iceberg.

The pace may have tested in parts. BUT that didn’t spoil what was a harrowing and insightful drama. One that I never expected to be so engrossed in. All aided with a superb cast makes this one to watch.

4/5