*NEW* BAD SANTA 2 REVIEW *NEW*

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Was it just bad or ho-ho-ho-horrible!

Nothing on the original BUT a whole lot better than anything I could have expected.

Crude, vulgar, wrong BUT oh so funny.

Fuelled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) teams up once again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus (Tony Cox) to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.

From all the poor ratings I expected worse. The original was good BUT it was hardly groundbreaking comedy.

It was a breath of fresh air watching a foul mouthed SC screwing and boozing his way though life after all the corny and sickly sweet Christmas films that bombard us during the wintry period. BUT can lightning strike twice for Billy Bob?

In a nutshell, meh.

Has it really been 13 years?! Did we need another one?

From the incredibly sweary and dreary opening, it felt we never left with Willie killing his liver and vomming down an alleyway.

Thornton hasn’t changed one bit and delivered yet again. Bringing his silver tongue and miserable demeanour to the fold. He quickly summed up the 13 year gap. The only shocker being an absent Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls).

The first 20 minutes was so wrong and quite dark with Willie trying to top himself by sticking his head in an electric oven. Thankfully, a surprise visit from an old friend soon stopped him in his tracks.

Brett Kelly was hilarious as Thurman Merman. Apart from turning 21, his appearance hadn’t changed at all. He stole the show and worked really well off Thornton. His naive and bizarre outlook on life and Christmas cracked me up.

I was a little disappointed at his limited screen time. I know that Willie was trying to push Thurman away to save him from ruining his life BUT the loveable dimwit just won’t give up on the gutter mouthed grouch.

His return to the mix later on in the movie was a much needed injection to the piece when the pace (and gags) tragically lagged.

Cox and Thornton were a great dysfunctional duo once they made amends over Marcus’ backstabbing. The insults and put downs were relentless.

I couldn’t believe they got Kathy Bates in this as Willie’s mother. She gave it a good ol’ go as the pair tried to get over their fractious relationship for one big score. Welcoming the woman who brought him into the world with a punch in the face.

They weren’t a bad mother/son combination BUT we already had one foul mouthed drunk; we didn’t need another. It felt like a competition with the pair trying to out gross each other BUT there was fun to be had. One scene had me in tears. I think it was improvised because it was a lot funnier than it should have been. All I’ll say is pizza.

Mike Starr’s (Dumb and Dumber) unexpected cameo as a lecherous SC delivered a mad punch up. He managed to make Willie look like a decent human being. For a second.

The first hour actually had me in stitches. It was filthy crude humour BUT it did the job. A shame that momentum couldn’t stick. The remaining 30 minutes was a lot more strenuous and hard going.

I wasn’t really a fan of Jenny Zigrino after her cringe-inducing turn in Fifty Shades of Black and she did nothing to win me over in this either. Other than playing on her build, she didn’t bring anything to the mix and just wasn’t funny. Cox’s attempts to woo her were dull and boring.

Jeff Skowron was incredibly annoying as Dorfman. The security guard intent on foiling Willie’s plan. Bernie Mac, he ain’t. Could have done with someone like him in this.

I had actually forgotten that Octavia Spencer featured in the first one. Good to see her return in a small cameo as the washed up hooker Opal BUT some might see it as a bit of a step down after her stellar performance in The Help.

Christina Hendricks proved she was game and I wasn’t complaining watching Mad Men’s Joan Holloway getting down and dirty BUT it wasn’t really that funny.

I know it was supposed to mirror Willy missing Graham’s Sue BUT after a couple of scenes, the bonking and screaming profanities got repetitive pretty quick.

There were several scenes that were just retreads of the original and nowhere near as entertaining. The frantic finale did get a little predictable and ended on such an incredibly flat and unfunny footnote with the laughs few and far between. Shame.

However, it was still quite watchable and killed the time. Fans of the original will find some saving graces in this. Just don’t expect too much.

2.5/5

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*NEW* FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 3D REVIEW *NEW*

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Is my love for the Harry Potter franchise wingardium levi-over? There’s only one way to find out.

The short answer, not one bit.

Here we join the adventures of writer Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards 70 years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

A fun riveting special effects extravaganza that compliments its predecessors BUT tops them? Not quite.

I’ll own up. I’m a fan of the books. A collection that played a huge part in my childhood. The movies on the other hand were a mixed bag. I won’t open that can of worms BUT to cut a long story short; I actually preferred the earlier efforts as they stayed more faithful in their adaptation. The less we say about the Deathly Hallows the better. Moving on . . .

I always loved the little extracts that HP would read about Newt Scamander’s fantastic beasts. Breaking up the main story line and adding to the ever expanding mythology created by the talented J.K. Rowling.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that HP spin-offs would rear their ugly heads after the unanimous success of the box office franchise and the recent Cursed Child craze.

BUT if they can keep this high level of energy, fun and creativity then I’m happy to keep watching. I felt a little more relieved when I discovered Rowling was penning the screenplay. I mean who better, right?

As soon as the credits rolled and that infamous twinkly John Williams score began, I couldn’t resist a little grin.

You couldn’t have picked a better actor than the Oscar winning Eddie Redmayne. He was perfect. I was a little weary about his interpretation at first. I was worried that Newt was going to come across a little simple. Especially how he mumbled out of the side of his mouth.

“We’re going to recapture my creatures before they get hurt. They’re currently in alien terrain surrounded by millions of the most vicious creatures on the planet; humans”.

However once you got used to Newt’s manner and we delved a little more into his past, you soon realised this timid and socially awkward wizard was more in tune with his creatures in his TARDIS-esque suitcase than the Muggle world.

The special effects were fantastic (I know. Original). The 3D is definitely worth an investment with coins, creatures and God knows what else flying out of the screen at ya.

The creatures were excellent. The new additions varied from a jewellery pinching platypus (‘Niffler’), an invisible monkey (‘Demiguise’) to a bizarre looking rhino on heat.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the man (who won an Oscar for depicting one of the world’s greatest minds) flouncing about the place and making weird mating calls.

“Hey! Mr. English Guy! I think your egg is hatched”

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Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury) was great as Kowalski. The Muggle unsuspectingly roped into the chaos. He stole the show with his one liners and puzzled expressions.

The thought of a prequel should have incensed the fan boy in me BUT setting it back in 1920s New York allowed Rowling to explore other aspects of the very wizarding universe she created. The jazz bar with gangster house elves and shots of Gigglewater being a particular highlight.

I loved the culture clash between the Brits and the Yanks. It was a nice touch. Right down to the slang and abbreviations. Muggle/No-Maj. Wizarding Senate/The Ministry of Magic.

It was fun and entertaining enough with Scamander and his rag tag team of misfits desperately trying to capture all the beasts. BUT it wasn’t all perfect.

Colin Farrell played the sinister Graves brilliantly. BUT there wasn’t enough of him.

I felt when the film deviated from Scamander, I lost interest. The story got bogged down too much with Ezra Miller’s (The Flash) Credence Barebone and the religious cult. Samantha Morton (Minority Report) played the abusive leader well. BUT it didn’t really go in the direction I expected.

The dark angle had potential and introduced a new menace with the infamous Grindelwald. Hardcore HP fans will already be familiar with that name. For others, the reference might be missed. And to be honest, the whole thing felt like another Voldemort (Sorry, you-know-who) retread.

The mystery Obscura (a dark force harvested within magical folk) certainly freaked me out BUT also flagged a number of questions.

I found Katharine Waterston’s (Inherent Vice) character quite irritating and her delivery was a little flat. BUT once she got caught up in the chaos with Newt and co, she soon grew on me. Her quirky mind reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), on the other hand, made more of an impression

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What?

Jon Voight (Deliverance) was completely unnecessary in his role. Anyone could have played him. In all fairness, there were a lot of faces that popped up in this that were nothing more than flashy cameos.

God knows how they are going to make another FOUR movies?! (That’s right!). It’s best to ignore that little fact before viewing this and take it as a solo effort for now.

BUT as long as they don’t get too bogged down by the dark stuff, I’m happy to take another journey with Newt Scamander and his fantastic beasts.

3.5/5

*NEW* ARRIVAL REVIEW *NEW*

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The next Interstellar. Brilliant . . . if you liked that movie.

Unfortunately, I didn’t. You can see where I’m heading with this.

A linguist (Amy Adams) is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

The endless Twitter trends, the crazy hype train. I was actually excited to see what the man who brought us Prisoners could deliver.

I’m not going to lie. By the time the credits rolled, I was left feeling a little disappointed.

An emotionally charged opening sequence (that rivalled Up) plucked on the heartstrings as we followed Louise’s (Adams – Nocturnal Animals) relationship with her daughter over the blossoming years. Right up to her swift and tragic illness.

Bleak, heartbreaking and we hadn’t even got to the aliens yet. The pace was left to simmer away and I was happy to allow the bubbling tension and theorising develop as Louise was recruited by Weber (Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland) after 12 strange objects descended from the sky.

Adams was superb and delivered a sterling turn. She really carried the film for me.

I wish more was made out of the supporting cast. Whitaker disappeared into the background far too much and Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire) was completely wasted in his role as the shady Agent Halpern. Just another generic government agent.

The only other actor to make a memorable impression was Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker). His quips and chemistry with Adams was a much needed presence as the pair worked together to assess whether our new visitors were friend or foe.

I was actually quite impressed by how writers Eric Heisserer and Ted Chiang thought up such a situation. It was almost believable in a way if a superior race were to suddenly appear and try to communicate in an indecipherable and unknown language.

The special effects and CGI on the strange tentacly guests were fantastic. The motion capture methods to create their movements was impressive. They reminded me a little of the jellyfish things from Monsters.

The cryptography and puzzle solving as Louise and co. tried to form a dialogue was intriguing enough BUT by the 60 minute marker, I could feel my patience wading. My interest lost. I didn’t even mind that we hadn’t received any answers or real questions to ask the sinister looking squid things.

BUT the pace really did drag and it was like pulling teeth out to get anywhere. The constant flashbacks to Louise’s daughter and bizarre dream sequences (at first haunting and hypnotic) soon irritated and numbed me into a mini-coma.

Thankfully as the growing tension and civil unrest across the world forced the UN to make a (predictable) decision, I was soon pulled back in.

The paranoia and suspense finally going somewhere with the military desperate to scratch those itchy trigger fingers.

The rising insurgence among the ranks. The hidden agendas from the international compatriots. The world in arrears. If anything, this was all too realistic with China and Russia refusing to share information and desperate to cut ties and eradicate this unknown presence.

All spurned on from one word (Finally deciphered) as “WEAPON”. A reference? A threat? A simple misinterpretation from the linguistic team?

The final 20 minutes was frantic, thrilling and . . . unexpected BUT rewarding?

I won’t say too much about the ending. BUT I will admit that I’m NOT the biggest sci-fi fan. Blade Runner, Alien, Twelve Monkeys, Looper; sign me up. Anything else . . . meh. Once I heard the phrase, “non-linear time difference”, the wind had been knocked out of my sails.

Like Interstellar, Arrival delivered a cleverly woven ending with time paradoxes and hidden meanings galore.

I was afraid that I missed something. I checked the forums and discussed theories and realised I had it sussed the first time. BUT for all the hype and twists and turns, it just didn’t grab me. I wasn’t caught up in it as much as I hoped.

It was good BUT . . . a defining science fiction film? 5/5? Film of the year? I don’t think I’ll remember this by next month.

Maybe it was a case of hype hindering rather than helping. I felt the same for Sicario. Wondering if people had never seen a movie about the underbelly of the Mexican border before.

If Adams wasn’t at the helm, I don’t think my interest would have been grabbed at all. I felt for her character, shared in her grief and frustration as the ever-impending deadline pressed on.

I didn’t hate it. There were genuine moments of suspense and tension. I don’t know how Bradford Young’s grainy cinematography could make a scene look so bleak and beautiful at the same time.

Johann Johannsson’s musical score was sublime. It was perfectly composed and really heightened the mood and emotion of the scenes. Especially in the closing moments.

A clever, well acted, if muddled and drawn out affair for me. It certainly left for food for thought BUT one to remember?

I’ll leave that to you.

3/5

GET SANTA REVIEW

REVISITED!

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

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Get on it!

Jim Broadbent dons the red suit and white beard and leads a sterling British cast in this fun (but flawed) Christmas cracker.

Writer/director Christopher Smith has taken the same old Santa spiel and re-worked it into something quite different and entertaining.

So what’s it all about? (Besides the obvious implications of the title) A father (Rafe Spall) and son (Kit Connor) team up to save Christmas after discovering Santa Claus (Broadbent) sleeping in their garage and on the run from the police.

A breath of fresh air! I was surprised at how little this film was marketed at the cinemas. It’s not without it’s imperfections but I can certainly commend it’s originality. Execution on the other hand? Ho, ho, ho, here we go.

Broadbent brings St Nick to life brilliantly and delivered the charm by the stocking full. He was everything I expected. Funny, endearing and entertaining. It always helps in these…

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*NEW* A STREET CAT NAMED BOB REVIEW *NEW*

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An easygoing feel good flick with stellar turns from the two leads.

Based on the international best selling book. The true story of how James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), a busker and recovering drug addict, had his life transformed when he met a stray ginger cat (Bob).

Ironically, despite that synopsis, I didn’t realise until the opening credits that this was based on a true story. The grim opening sequence gave a hard look into life on the streets with Bowen busking for his next meal (or his next fix).

We watched him sleep rough on a sheet of cardboard in the pouring rain. Rummaging through skips and bins for scraps while fighting back the withdrawal from his drug addiction.

There was even a cringe inducing scene in which the poor chap literally sang for his dinner in a cafe. Just because he was 12p short.

Luke Treadaway is an underrated actor. I enjoyed his turn in Fortitude. It was good to see him get a leading role. He played the part well. He hadn’t got a bad voice either. A cross between Frank Turner and Mumford & Sons.

BUT there wasn’t as much singing as I thought. I expected something a little more in the lines of Once. However, Satellite Moments (Light Up The Sky) was a catchy tune and stand out track.

Director Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies) and writers Tim John and Maria Nation got the right balance. In all fairness, if it wasn’t for the overdose sequence, this could have passed as a PG. It wasn’t graphic or violent BUT still hit home.

Darren Evans (My Mad Fat Diary) was quite good as Baz. The relentless junkie desperate for another fix. It was a surprisingly dark opener as Bowen overdosed in a stolen car.

However, our troubled hero gets a second chance in the form of a ginger mog.

There wasn’t enough of Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey) as Val. The social worker taking a big gamble on the stumbling drug addict. Refusing to accept Bowen’s excuses BUT desperate to see him make the program.

The film delved into the housing benefits scheme and provided a better insight into the workings behind the Big Issue sellers. I didn’t realise the rules and the various territories. Eye opening.

It was a little cheesy once Bob was thrown into the mix BUT they made an entertaining pair as they both got into all sorts of scraps.

The POV perspectives from Bob did get a little silly. It may have lightened up the serious tone of James’ rehabilitation BUT we didn’t need to see everything James was showing Bob. A friendly visit from a mouse delivered a fitting nod to Tom and Jerry.

The introduction of Bob also introduced aspects of James’ life that he thought were done. Most notably in a blossoming romance with the ditsy super vegan Betty (Ruta Gedmintas).

It was a bit of a change from slaying vampires in The Strain for Gedmintas. She was very good as the enthusiastic veggie. Desperate to help all creatures. Volunteering at a local vet despite being allergic to animals. The pair had great chemistry.

I just wish there was more exploration of James’ relationship with his father (Anthony Head – Buffy the Vampire Slayer). You felt sorry for James as he tried to keep clean and build bridges much to his step mother’s disapproval.

BUT of course, the road to recovery is never easy. This had more of a TV movie feel to the piece BUT it had just enough heart and charm to stand on its own two feet (or paws). Especially after some of the entries hitting the Xmas schedules (Say no more).

It wasn’t quite as hard hitting as I had expected. By all means, it was still very watchable with some endearing moments as we went through the highs and lows BUT if you were expecting Inside Llewyn Davis meets Trainspotting, you might be left disappointed.

Ruth Sheen (Another Year) was completely wasted in her role as Elsie, the friendly passer by who becomes a fan of Bob.

I still can’t believe this was a true story. It was a charming little film that left a nice message and a cheesy smile (Including a passing cameo from Bowen himself).

If that sounds like your cup of tea, check it out.

3/5