*NEW* THE BFG REVIEW *NEW*

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The BIG FLOPPIN’ MESS

On paper, the dream of Roald Dahl’s works and Steven Spielberg’s direction should have spelled perfection BUT despite Rylance’s brilliant performance, there was something missing.

A girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) encounters the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kind-hearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.

Definitely one for the little ‘uns. It has been a long time since I read The BFG. I loved Dahl’s books as a child and genuinely enjoyed the film adaptations. Some I still watch as guilty pleasures BUT this won’t be one of them.

The opening 30 minutes was everything I expected. It was exactly how I remembered. The animation and cinematography (from regular Spielberg stalwart Janusz Kaminski) were fantastic. The BFG’s introduction was lifted straight from the book. His eyes twinkling in the dark alleys. The giant hand clambering through the curtains. The sweeping shots across the beautiful English countryside.

It was delightfully easy going. Barnhill carried the role as well as she could. It’s an incredibly difficult task for a child actor to get the balance right. Whether it was the script or her performance BUT there were moments where the poor girl just got on my nerves. BUT it was still a commendable debut for the little lass.

After his Oscar winning turn in Bridge of Spies, Mark Rylance reunited with Spielberg yet again. The animation and effects were impeccable; mixing live animation with Rylance’s facial expressions. His delivery really made all of Dahl’s insanely ridiculous jargon almost believable. He really was the BFG. Perfect.

However, the main issue was the pace. It went on far too long. This would have been much better if it was reduced by a good 30 minutes. If anything, the meandering pace gave me time to pick at how nothingy the story of the BFG really was. Apart from catching dreams and eating whizpoppers (a horrible looking cucumber), there wasn’t really much going on.

What was originally a beautiful scene with the BFG and Sophie chasing after the pixie like dreams flying around the trees, I found myself nodding off. I hate to blame the twinkly lullaby score of John Williams. The maestro providing yet another wonderful score. It just didn’t grab me. The CGI and effects were marvellous BUT it wasn’t enough.

NOT even the giants made enough of an impression for me. Considering the talented supporting cast voicing the eclectic bunch of fantastically designed beasts, the only one that made a memorable impression was Flight of the Conchord’s Jermaine Clement as Fleshlumpeater. The only giant with any depth or dialogue.

I didn’t even realise until the closing credits that Bill Hader (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) was voicing Bloodbottler! I wanted more of them. There were opportunities for the BFG to overcome the years of bullying. I know it was only a kids’ films BUT I couldn’t help but ask endless questions; Why did the giants hate rain so much? (Especially when the BFG wasn’t fazed at all). Why catch dreams and give them to people while they sleep?

The giants weren’t really as intimidating as I’d hoped. If anything, they were irritating. Despite a wonderfully animated sequence with the dimwitted dirt dwellers throwing the BFG on a digger and Sophie in a battered car and racing them around the hill, they didn’t do much at all.

It was the meeting with the Queen that made me feel my age. For the first time, I actually felt uncomfortable watching a children’s film. I always enjoy family films because they always have something for everyone. BUT this time, it really was just for the sprogs.

Penelope Wilton (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) was brilliant as Her Majesty. It’s just a shame she was playing her in this. Rafe Spall and Rebecca Hall were completely wasted (and unnecessary in their roles). And once everybody was guzzling frobscottle (a strange fizzy drink with bubbles that float down) and farting green smoke including the bloomin’ Corgis, I knew I was getting too old for this.

I know I’m heading towards my thirties and I’ve become an older and more cynical movie goer BUT I can still watch The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Wilder version, of course. RIP) as guilty pleasures. BUT the meandering pace and silly little gags just didn’t deliver. The giants were barely used and weren’t really as much of a threat as they could have been.

It was watchable guff BUT I’m afraid to say that Spielberg’s dry spell continues. The little ‘uns will love it BUT the older Dahl fans will be disappointed.

2.5/5

*NEW* NERVE REVIEW *NEW*

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The dares may have been nail biting BUT the cliched dialogue and cheesy moments got on my NERVES!

A high school senior (Emma Roberts) finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.”

It’s like truth or dare BUT without the truth. So it’s dare. Just say dare. Instead of people playing Pokemon Go, we have idiots taking videos of themselves lying on train tracks and hanging off scaffolding for views and likes.

I didn’t even realise that was adapted from a book until my mate told me. BUT after watching this mixed bag, I’m NOT sure if I will seek out the original source material.

From the moment the film began with that nauseating first person PoV of Roberts’ Vee (Short for Venus. Don’t worry, we’re told numerous times. Just in case we forget) perusing her Facebook page, playing “The Only Single Person of her Friends” Spotify playlist and whining about going to college, I didn’t know if this would be for me.

Roberts (Scream Queens) was a likeable presence and the pace zipped along. It set up her cliched back story quite quickly and you could relate to her social awkwardness and inability to tell her financial stricken mother that a local college might NOT be in her plans.

And it wasn’t long before the NERVE-ous teen (What?) was introduced to the latest viral craze. Emily Meade (The Leftovers) made a memorable turn as Vee’s attention seeking and insecure “BFF” Sydney. Her incessant nitpicking goading Vee to break free from the lonely ranks of the “WATCHER” and take on life as a “PLAYER”. A shame the same can’t be said for the rest of the supporting cast.

Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers) was wasted in her role as Vee’s mum. Their relationship wasn’t really explored enough (or at all for that matter). There was so much potential BUT it was all thrown away for the game.

Miles Heizer (Parenthood) was funny as Tommy. The poor chap who can’t accept Vee’s “friend zone”. BUT once Dave Franco (Now You See Me 2) hit the scene, his snarky one liners and quips were reduced to phone in conversations. Only returning for the finale.

The whole concept of NERVE was intriguing and was a fantastic satire ripe for poking fun at the idiocy that all these social media platforms bring (as well as the dangers). BUT for the first 30 minutes, it was just too damn corny. Despite NERVE focusing perfectly on the addictive nature of a new craze with Vee enjoyed living a little and gaining fans, I could feel my patience wading.

Franco’s introduction picked things up a bit and he managed to drudge through some of the more nauseating moments. BUT I had to cringe at the lad miming badly to Roy Orbison and prancing around the diner for a dare.

BUT while this was all going on, I kept wondering why this film got a 15 rating in the first place?! Kiss a guy for 10 seconds. Wear an expensive dress. Get a tattoo. Really?

Luckily the pair had good chemistry and kept things watchable BUT I was still left wanting. HOWEVER just as I was about to give up on this cheesy teen flick, the game took a turn for the worse. As Vee became a viral sensation, the dares soon became more challenging leading to a tense adrenaline pumped second half.

The true danger of social media. A white knuckle motorbike ride had me wincing throughout as Vee guided a blindfolded Ian (Franco) across a busy traffic riddled New York street. BUT that didn’t make me feel quite as queasy as the ladder dare.

A rattly ladder pinned between two buildings with a nice 20-30 storey drop. No thank you! And to make matters worse, the opponent must film the whole thing on their phone while doing it. The camera angles and first person perspective tested my vertigo a treat.

Frantic, suspenseful and mental. A rewarding half that almost paid off as things came to a head. BUT this was where it let itself down again after all that promise and tension. Vee and Sydney’s friendly battle for views became more competitive BUT it led to nothing more than a bitchy ‘slanging’ match. Shame.

And that was the problem. This could have been so much darker. It was far too corny for its own good and despite these mental challenges and satirical commentary, it rushed everything for a frantic and abrupt finale that delivered a hammy sermon on the woes of trolling and illegal online activity.

I could respect the message BUT the timing and delivery was dreadfully dull and killed a lot of the suspense.

A mixed bag. I could think of worse ways to kill 90 minutes. A watchable romp BUT not quite what I hoped.

2.5/5

DIVERGENT REVIEW

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

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Dull-vergent. A watchable if highly predictable affair. It’s all been seen before but it helps when it’s reprieved by likeable characters and a well acted cast. However, it felt more like Di-Verging on Being a Hunger Games Rip off.

In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late.

I haven’t read the book. And after watching this, I don’t think I will any time soon. For those who also haven’t; the film is set in a post apocalyptic future Chicago. In order to maintain peace, the city has been split into five factions and shielded with a giant wall (Game of Thrones, this ain’t). From what? Nobody knows. Spookaay. No, seriously. Nobody knows. The factions are; Arudite, Candor…

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*NEW* JASON BOURNE REVIEW *NEW*

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Jason Boreeee-neeeeee.

I know. That pun was as lazy as the plot line. Bourne is back but bigger and better? Not even close. Blander and boring. Definitely.

The CIA’s most dangerous former operative is drawn out of hiding to uncover more explosive truths about his past.

That synopsis failed to deliver anything that I’d hoped. I loved the Bourne series. Not quite up to the ridiculous hype BUT intricate adrenaline pumped little thrillers that (very) loosely adapted a bestselling Robert Ludlum franchise and took it in a completely different direction.

When I heard that Matttttt Damonnnnnnn and Paul Greengrass were to reunite for a fourth outing after the misfire that was The Bourne Legacy, I was elated. Ultimatum left such an open ending that resolved the story arc for the trilogy BUT suggested an opportunity for his return. After watching this, I really think he should have kept swimming.

A promising opening, with a dishevelled (and hench) looking Bourne knocking people out with one punch, soon simmered into a snoozefest. 20 minutes of mindless computer jargon, lazy references to Edward Snowden and a lot of flicking about with Alicia Vikander’s (Ex Machina) analyst hacking in Langley to Julia Stile’s (10 Things I Hate About You) hacking in Iceland and our main man . . . battling night terrors.

What infuriated me the most was that despite Bourne supposedly remembering everything, he seemed even more disoriented and out of it than the other movies combined. The repetitive flashbacks unearthed a little more into his past BUT the revelations were hardly shocking and so predictable that it brought nothing to the mix.

Stiles’ character was completely wasted and nothing more than a mere plot device to spur our troubled ex-CIA asset. Some mumbo jumbo about another Treadstone programme in the pipeline which even our own hero asked in one scene; “What that has to do with me?” And by the end, I wondered the exact same thing.

Tommy Lee Jones’ CIA Director Robert Dewey should have been the game changer. A turning point after FOUR movies of seeking answers and closure for Bourne. Nope. He did his best with the role BUT his character was too busy meddling in some feeble and uninteresting subplot with social media mogul Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed – Four Lions).

Ahmed delivered a convincing accent BUT his character was far too weak and frankly unnecessary by the closing act. His moral and ethical conflict tied in with the increasing pressure from Dewey’s interference had potential BUT went nowhere.

The film really did go through the motions. Teasing Bourne’s introduction then holding him back in multiple (and brilliantly shot) locations and forcing us to drudge through dull exposition with a group of generic and stocky CIA types that literally did the exact same thing as the other films.

Alicia Vikander played the ambitious operative well BUT her attempts to try and bring Bourne back in from the cold to add as a feather on her cap could have been so much more. She got pushed into the background far too much. Quickly thrown back in for the final act. Shame.

Vincent Cassel’s (Black Swan) bloodthirsty mercenary was the only interesting addition. He literally shot anyone in his path to pursue Bourne. His ruthlessness revealing an ulterior motive that was much more than securing a contract killing.

The set pieces were the only things that kept me awake. Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography beautifully captured the chaos; especially during a violent street riot in Athens. The frantic shaky handy cam shots combined with David Buckley and John Powell’s thrilling movie score certainly ticked the boxes.

BUT after a while, even the chases seemed drawn out and repetitive with Bourne bludgeoning people and causing carnage with no remorse or second thought. And if it wasn’t him, there were random people creeping out of the woodwork ready to throw a few flying fists here and there.

The Vegas police car chase was probably the best sequence of the film. It was brutal, frenetic and nail biting. All that meandering for an explosive finale.

All a case of too little, too late. Two hours of patchy pacing that retreaded all the story lines of the other movies with Bourne failing to remember and the CIA going out of their way to remove his presence. I actually preferred the Bourne Legacy. Jeremy Renner was a likeable lead and at least the hokey super soldier subplot was different.

I don’t think it was even that vital for newcomers to bother watching the other movies. This latest outing was like the protagonist; cold, befuddled, isolated and tired. Even when that iconic Moby track rung through the cinema speakers, I couldn’t help BUT feel deflated and disappointed.

I think Bourne should stay in hiding for the foreseeable future.

2/5

*NEW* INSURGENT REVIEW *NEW*

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

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Dull-vergent returns. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice . . . Well, shame on me again, I guess.

Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.

Well, it killed the time. But would I watch it again? Would I recommend it? Ah, no.

I haven’t read the Divergent books (and I’m certainly not going to after this) BUT I actually liked the first feature film adaptation. It was racy, engaging if a little predictable. BUT as I said back then, if there was going to be a sequel, they would need to take it up a notch.

It was watchable enough but if anything, Insurgent took the wind out of Divergent’s sails. It was slow, overlong and cliched as hell. It only really got going in the last twenty minutes…

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*NEW* MIDNIGHT SPECIAL REVIEW *NEW*

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

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Not that special.

A father (Michael Shannon – Man of Steel) and son (Jaeden Lieberher – St. Vincent) go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers.

Overhyped, drawn out and disappointing. A patchy affair, to say the least.

The opening 30 minutes was everything I expected. It was tense, slow burning and mysterious as we watched Roy (Shannon) and Alton (Lieberher) hiding out in motels. Only travelling at nightfall. Evading capture at any cost. A suspenseful encounter with a state trooper after a late night car collision was nail-biting.

All the questions with none of the answers. Hook, line and sinker! Joel Edgerton (Warrior) worked well with Shannon as his friend and partner in crime. Lieberher excelled yet again (after a stellar turn in St. Vincent) as Alton. He felt like a cross between ET and D.A.R.Y.L. If said aliens were brainwashed by a…

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*NEW* THE SHALLOWS REVIEW *NEW*

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Blake Lively in a bikini and a ridiculous CGI’d shark – what’s not to like?

A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy (Blake Lively – Gossip Girl) is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.

Jaws, this ain’t BUT once you cut through all the cheese, there lies a tense nail biting thriller that delivered everything I expected from the abomination that was Open Water.

An ominous opening involving a mangled helmet and some Go Pro footage certainly got the ball rolling. BUT that was soon hampered by Lively’s introduction. She did her best with the character and thankfully there wasn’t too much of her nauseating “I’m an American traveller in Mexico” spiel. Some guff about her visiting the same beach where her mother found out she was pregnant. Corny, I know.

It was easygoing enough as Lively’s Nancy set up on the shore and the location . . . My Goodness. Flavio Martinez Labiano’s beautiful cinematography really captured the beauty of Australia. *Cough* Sorry, “Mexico”. The clear blue oceans depressed me. The sun, the sea, the beach. I need a holiday. So inviting BUT of course, Nancy won’t be surfing alone.

The surfing scenes were actually quite good. I can never get enough Lively in slow motion (What?). BUT it was a little naff watching a stunt woman rip the tides with Lively’s badly CGI’d face. Yikes. I could feel my patience wading. 20 minutes in and no sign of our fishy friend?

Instead, we had Nancy challenged by two other surfers (I forgot their names. Let’s call them Shark Bait #1 and Shark Bait #2) and an argument over Face Time with some poorly placed multi-screens. It did give a much needed depth to her wafer thin surfer girl and there was a little more empathy behind the real reason for her cheesy quest.

Director Jaume Collet-Sera continued to tease the main star’s arrival. A darker score by Marco Beltrami, a few disorienting camera angles and the majestic waves soon became monstrous. Nancy’s board floating. The sun piercing. Every wave pressing. “One last wave . . . ” Oh that silly mistake. A dark shape flashes past.

And for the next 60 minutes, I was hooked. A game of wits against one of nature’s oldest and deadliest predators. Lively held her own and carried the film when the pace dropped. A little disappointing considering the film was only 86 minutes. BUT it got me jumping out of my seat, fidgeting uncomfortably and biting my nails off.

A nightmare situation if ever there was one. Stumbling into the feeding ground of a giant Great White Shark. Hell to the no.

Injured, afraid and left on a pile of rocks with only a few hours until low tide. The make up effects were pretty good as Nancy used her earrings to suture a gaping leg wound. Her medical student/patient mono-logging may have been a coping mechanism BUT it got on my nerves.

Thankfully she had a companion in a CGI’d seagull. Steven Seagull. No, seriously. That’s the bird’s name.

With no help coming (or being teared to pieces), Nancy takes desperate measures. Timing the the cycle that our foe takes. 32 seconds to swim from one rock to a rotting whale carcass.

I have to say that the CGI’d creature was a little hit and miss for me. It didn’t really spoil the experience or suspense BUT there were moments where I would have preferred the old mechanical monstrosity that drew Spielberg to scream profanities in Jaws.

BUT every time a fin rose to the surface, I was wincing. The seconds on our heroine’s timer running out. The closing act was frantic and nerve wracking. A final showdown on a bobbling bouy delivered a fitting homage to the ultimate shark movie. NO! NOT Sharknado.

The Shallows carried that fun B-movie feel BUT didn’t push things too far. Even if sirens went off when a flare somehow set a good portion of the ocean surface on fire.

I didn’t expect to get caught up in it as much as I did and even if the CGI left little to be desired, it was a still highly watchable and tense little thriller that is a must for the underwater horror junkies.

3/5