*NEW* TOMB RAIDER REVIEW *NEW*

Vikander was brilliant BUT was everything else?

Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.

In a nutshell, flawed but fun. Something these video game movie adaptations (of late) have failed to achieve (Sorry Fassbender, the less we say about Assassin’s Creed, the better).

The opening set to it with some supernatural guff about a tomb entrapping a Chinese sorceresss and Lara’s father (Dominic West) being the only one who knows how to open it.

Thankfully it didn’t delve too much into that hokey stuff too early. Instead we watched a ripped Vikander (Seriously those abs put my beer belly to shame) taking a pummelling in a mixed martial arts punch up.

But that scene established her character. Resilient, feisty and stubborn to boot.

I knew Vikander wouldn’t disappoint. She had tough shoes to fill after Jolie. She was the perfect incarnation. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Jolie efforts BUT they lacked something.

The first act was spent on Lara refusing to accept her father’s death. Despite all the search parties declaring him dead after a seven year absence. Scraping by as a bike courier despite being the sole heir to a rich inheritance (And an incredible mansion!).

It was nice to see Kristin Scott Thomas and Derek Jacobi pop up in this BUT their characters were wasted . . . In this entry. If there are to be sequels than there is potential for (at least) Thomas’ role to grow.

Initially Dominic West was reduced to cheesy flashbacks BUT they still fared a lot better than Voight/Joile’s disjointed “dream” encounters.

You could argue that the “fox hunt” was unnecessary and cheesy BUT it was fast paced and entertaining as the couriers chased Lara around London for a cash prize. Showing how mischievous  and resourceful the heroine can be.

I liked that Lara was younger. It added a vulnerability to her. Unlike Jolie’s bad ass. Still learning the ropes and introducing her to the chaos as much as the audience. Different.

The film zipped along and I wasn’t bored. As soon as that old Japanese puzzle box was handed to Lara at the will signing, the game was afoot. The hidden rooms in Croft Manor, the cryptic messages.

Cheesy but the right amount. The more video messages and audio recordings Richard left droning on about Himiko, the more far-fetched the supernatural stuff got.

Thankfully there was enough high-octane action to keep my grumbling at bay. The set-pieces were tense and exhilarating. Even if the CGI left a little to be desired in places. Especially when Lara’s boat rode through the Ordeals of Himiko.

In one shot, the jaw dropping visuals impressed as the giant waves bombarded the old barge. The next . . . Ridiculously cartoony. It didn’t spoil the intensity of the scene but it was just a little messy.

BUT that still didn’t stop me wincing as Lara free-run across a rusty war plane balanced over the edge of a waterfall. Like I said, cheesy. BUT riveting.

I thought Daniel Wu played the drunken showboat captain Lu Ren well. And I was happy to see Walton Goggins as (the Weirdo with a beardo) Matthias Vogel and his band of meaningless mercenaries.

It was just a shame that Goggins was a little weak after such a creepy introduction. Nonchalantly declaring that he killed her father. A man obsessed with achieving his mission no matter the cost.

BUT he was pushed into the background far too much.

Junkie XL’s score was fantastic. The Mad Max maestro perfectly composed each scene with the frenetic action.

I liked how Lara wasn’t a believer of the supernatural. Refusing to believe in the mythology of Himiko.

There was depth in her character. Her remorse at having to dispose of a mercenary in a brutal manner (for a 12A) was a surprising moment. That was until she clocked up the body count with her bow and arrow 30 minutes later.

The father/daughter dynamic worked a lot better with West and Vikander, And surprisingly the actual tomb raiding didn’t happen until the 75th minute marker.

I did laugh when Richard and Lara chanted an incantation that hadn’t been mentioned throughout the film.

And this was where the film began to buckle, the final act felt rushed and slapped together.

The Himiko subplot wasn’t that interesting and when things finally came to a head, it was breezed over so quickly that I found myself wanting.

Recycling Indiana Jones territory with the booby traps (hidden spikes, crumbling floors etc) and throwing in everything but the kitchen sink for an explosive finale as it ran out of steam.

“I’ll take two”.

However, despite its flaws, this promising reboot was a solid effort that delivered in thrills, action and left areas to explore.

And if there was to be another, I wouldn’t grumble.

Vikander was flawless. We just need a more interesting mythology and a stronger villain for our heroine to take on.

3/5

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ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD REVIEW

All in the money in the world can’t hide how mediocre this crime biopic really was.

The story of the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother to convince his billionaire grandfather Jean Paul Getty to pay the ransom.

A glorious opening sequence (encapsulated by Dariusz Wolski’s beautiful cinematography) summed up the movie in a nutshell as Charlie Plummer’s (Not a relation) John Paul Getty III drunkenly stumbled along the busy and lively streets of Rome like something out of Roman Holiday.

Style over substance. Like most of Ridley Scott’s movies of late.

Don’t get me wrong, it was watchable. BUT with the cast involved and the subject matter at hand, I expected more.

It’s hard not to talk about Spacey’s absence. I was a big fan of the actor and I felt the scandal has been used as a PR piece to flog a flailing film. I couldn’t help but imagine how he would have handled the role. Injecting that House of Cards menace.

BUT at that same stroke (and for all the hype), John Paul Getty wasn’t really in this film as much as you’d think or hope. So God knows how Spacey was being nominated for an Oscar before the scandal.

I don’t want to take anything away from Christopher Plummer. He was a charismatic and engaging presence that delivered a worthy performance. Even more so if he did the re-shoots in just NINE days.

He really excelled (as did Michelle Williams) in a compelling scene involving the handling of Gail’s divorce. Absurd, brutal and jaw dropping as Getty dictated the terms. Using the children as nothing more than collateral in a business transaction.

Williams’ expressions and stern demeanour during that entire sequence was worth an awards nod alone. I just wish there was more of that fire and friction BUT Williams and Plummer spent too much of the movie apart. Shame.

The slow burning tempo kept my interest (at first) as it flicked back and forth from the kidnapping to Getty’s past as he worked his way up.

The lessons in money and value weren’t surprising. Despite the small sequences that Getty featured in, it still spoke volumes. “You’re not a person anymore. You’re a symbol”. The fact his name alone made an 11 dollar statue turn into an 11 MILLION dollar one said it all.

“A man who has children gives hostages to fortune”. 14 grandchildren encourages 14 kidnappings. Shrewd and grotesque. You couldn’t help BUT laugh at the tycoon.

There was a sickening irony to Getty’s ruthless rationalizing as a number of countries claimed they had Getty’s grandson. And yet he can barter over rare paintings instead of his own grandson’s life?

Despite an engaging introduction, I found that Mark Wahlberg’s hostage negotiator Fletcher Chase grew increasingly passive and unnecessary as the film progressed.

I know Getty hired him for appearances with no intention of paying BUT Chase seemed genuinely concerned at bringing the boy home and proving the billionaire wrong. And yet sitting by the phone and stating the obvious seemed to be his key priority.

And the chemistry and strange flirting between him and Gail felt forced. Another cook spoiling the broth.

And once Williams was able to get into the fold, she took over his role (and purpose) anyway. Finally putting her foot down. Williams was a good lead BUT she spent too much of the film in the background. Only really getting to shine in the final third.

My main issue was the pacing. It felt 30 to 45 minutes longer than it should have been. The story felt stretched and there were only so many beautiful locations and capitalist quotes I could take.

I was engrossed in the grandson’s kidnapping and his estranged relationship with his handler Cinquanta (Romain Duris). And dare I say, I was more impressed by Duris’ performance as the conflicted Cinquanta than the stellar leads.

Both victims in a game with no winners. All for a bit of the green (No, not that green. Money).

I felt the rest of the supporting cast at Scott’s disposal only had generic roles to work with. It was good to see Timothy Hutton. Even if it was in a tragically minute role. And Andrew Buchan’s surprising (albeit blink and you’ll miss it) turn certainly delivered.

However, the finale was tense and riveting. A cobbled street chase sequence finally got everybody involved and delivered more of what I had expected from the get go.

I don’t need action 24/7 BUT I want the scenes to go somewhere. This should have been a brutal commentary on corporate greed BUT it was too disjointed and complacent.

It wasn’t a complete waste and there were moments to be had BUT for all the hype in the world, that was it. Moments. Despite the best efforts of a talented cast.

2.5/5

47 METRES DOWN REVIEW

Thumbs down?

Two sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean. With less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby, they must fight to survive.

I loved the cheesy 80s horror movie style title sequence and that creepy rift. Somebody knows their Jaws movies. Writers Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera didn’t mess about. Quickly setting up the premise and characters. Well that wasn’t difficult, there was only five in the whole film!

I feared the worst with the incredibly cheesy (and boozy) break up montage as Kate (Claire Holt – The Originals) tried to cheer up her lovesick sis Lisa (Mandy Moore – This Is Us). And what better way than to submerge themselves in a rusty cage surrounded by sharks?!

Within 15 minutes, alarm bells were already ringing as Kate stretched the truth about her “scuba diving experience” to the shady Matt Modine. Have they not seen Stranger Things? Or at least the state of the boat he was in.

The first half of the film was actually better than I expected. It was slow burning BUT tense and gripping as you waited for the inevitable to happen. A dark shape in the water, that infamous fin ripping through the waves . . .

I wouldn’t be wasting oxygen counting down the metres as that rust bucket was plummeting into the abyss, that’s for sure! I thought Mandy Moore’s over-hysterical Lisa would do my head in BUT honestly I don’t know how I’d be in a situation like that.

I thought the sisters were incredibly resourceful (All things considering). I didn’t realise the harrowing effects of decompression sickness (‘the bends’) and the toll it takes on the human body at such levels.

Of course, this is a silly B-movie so you might have to suspend disbelief on the facts. Seriously, the list of side effects were scary enough. Let alone the fact the bloody cage was dumped in the middle of a shark pit.

The shark scenes were actually quite impressive. The CGI looked realistic. The POV perspective as Kate tried to suss out the terrain made things even more nail biting. The air of unease, that feeling of dread as you knew ol’ Brucey would rear his ugly head at any moment.

It was only when the film (ironically) hit the 47 minute marker that my interest waded. The whole stranded at the bottom of the ocean spiel got a little repetitive and tedious by the closing minutes. Cage gets pulled up, cable snaps, sisters swims out, shark attacks and so on . . . and so on.

The premise felt stretched out even though it was only an 89 minute film!

This would have fared a lot better if The Shallows hadn’t come out the year before. It was tough not to draw comparisons (Really? A shark movie? Just The Shallows?).

As much as the jumpy shark encounters delivered, everything else felt a little weak and the finale was dreadfully predictable even with the false endings.

It killed the suspense and left things on a bum note.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad BUT it wasn’t that great either. If you’re into the underwater B-flicks, give it a go BUT if you’re expecting Jaws or anything else, I’d swim away.

2.5/5

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN REVIEW

A resurgent return from the Edward Scissorhands maestro? Or another dud to add to his ever-growing pile?

When Jacob (Asa Butterfield) discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine’s (Eva Green) Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

Not bad. Macabre, mad, enthralling. Is Burton back? Well . . . almost.

The creepy opening act certainly got things going as social outcast Jacob tended to his ailing grandfather (Terence Stamp).

His home ransacked, his eyes missing (Burton really went for that 12A rating), his last words; clues to a mystery that Jacob thought was merely a fairy tale.

I was a little disappointed at Stamp’s swift departure BUT thankfully a series of flashbacks added a much needed depth to their relationship as he told Jake stories of Miss Peregrine and her ‘peculiar’ children.

Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd) played it surprisingly well as Jake’s downbeat dad. Not enough of him, to be honest. Reluctantly roped into Jake’s quest for answers. Delusions of a dementia-ridden man? Or something more?

The slow build up as we delved into the grandfather’s past and the mystery of the boarding school was interesting enough. Especially when we got to meet the infamous gang.

All the Burton trademarks were there. From Enoch’s macabre Nightmare Before Christmas demented puppet fights to Olive’s Penguin gloves (Watch out for a Hitchcockian cameo).

Eva Green (Be still my beating heart. What?) was very good as Miss Peregrine. Delivering a crazy eccentricity to the role as she introduced Jake to the Peculiars and explained ‘The Loop’. A home hidden in a time bubble (Well, 1943 to be exact) that resets every day on a loop. Got it?

Despite the mad special effects and talented cast, the loop stuff flagged up more questions and plot holes than I could muster. Don’t think about it too much or it really will spoil things. Especially in the closing act.

I couldn’t fault any of the children as the Peculiars.  They really were a mad bunch from the invisible Miller, the bee-spitting Hugh, the super-human Bronwyn and the gravity-defying Emma (Ella Purnell).

They all had a chance to show off their strange abilities. I just wish more time was spent on that. Perhaps a little too much was wasted on the sulky Enoch (Finlay MacMillan) and his demented puppetry. Seriously, wait until he introduces Jake to Victor (*shudders*).

Butterfield carried the film when the pace lagged. I was fidgeting by the 60 minute marker despite great chemistry between him and Purnell as Jake and Emma’s inevitable romance blossomed.

However, that soon changed when Samuel L Jackson (finally) made his introduction (80 minutes?!) as the loathsome Mr Barron. He was brilliant. Even if he was battling with those crazy nashers. He lapped it up with enough fun and silliness even when his arms melded into some crazy T-1000 style weaponry.

Of course, he wasn’t alone . . .

Yikes, these creepy Slenderman-esque Hollows will stick with me for a while. Feeding their sustenance with the eyes of Peculiars. The eyes?! I thought this was a kid’s film?! First, Coraline freaked me out with those button eyes and now this . . .

Miss Peregrine’s Home was entertaining and fun with enough crazy visuals that kept my griping at bay. BUT it felt like after all that build up and time spend on introducing the characters that it rushed to a silly conclusion with a chaotic showdown at Blackpool Tower.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t familiar with the Ransom Riggs novels BUT with such a wide array of characters (and talented cast), it was always going to be difficult to give each character the right amount of screen time. Green was virtually absent by the final act and Dame Judi Dench’s role seemed like nothing more than an extended cameo. Shame.

If there was to be a sequel, I would happily watch another. I just hope the stuff that was teased in the closing minutes actually develops into something or else this would have really been a waste.

BUT don’t let that put you off a mad fantasy ride with enough charm and special effects to kill the time.

3/5

HARDCORE HENRY REVIEW

Stupid, ridiculously violent, messed up BUT . . . not bad at all.

Henry is resurrected from death with no memory, and he must save his wife from a telekinetic warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.

Imagine if Crank was made into a f**ked up first person shoot em up video game walk through and you wouldn’t be far off this.

A disjointed flashback with a wasted Tim Roth (Wasted as in talent NOT wasted in the other variety) and an ultra-violent 80s style James Bond title sequence didn’t build high hopes. Seriously I wasn’t ready to see a dude glassed in the throat super slo-mo styley within the first minute.

However, the opening lab sequence was engaging enough as Henry received new robotic limbs and instructions from the lovely Haley Bennett (The Girl on the Train). The make-up effects and CGI were impressive.

The whole thing felt like it had been taken straight out of a video game. The hum drum clunky dialogue between the scientists made me laugh. The gamer nerd in me smiling from ear to ear.

The only problem was that these are the sort of sequences I frantically press any button on the controller to skip.

BUT it didn’t mess about. Quickly establishing the premise and throwing us straight into the chaos by the 15 minute marker. Some guff about bio-engineered soldiers and Henry being the only one who can stop them. Blah, blah, blah.

Danila Kozlovksy (Vampire Academy)’s Akan looked like something out of Devil May Cry. The blond hair. The creepy demeanour.

His camp panto performance shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. BUT he was the perfect villain for this piece. Lapping it up and delivering one of the best lines I’ve heard in a while: “If I took this moment and put it in a cup of tea, I wouldn’t need any sugar”. Brilliant.

However, there was one man that stole the show. And sorry Henry, it wasn’t you.

Sharlto Copley (District 9), take a bow! I can’t tell if his turn was a master stroke or just plain bloody awful. Either way it was funny as hell. He was brilliant as Jimmy, Henry’s partner-in-crime.

Constantly popping up between each violent encounter as an even more ridiculous avatar. Be it an uptight colonel, a pot smoking hippie, a Sinatra crooner or a camouflaged hedge (Yep. You read that right).

What a ride! The action set-pieces and chase sequences were relentless as Henry jumped off moving cars, buildings and clocking up the body count in a number of brutally violent ways.

At one point, out hero strangles a dude with his own robotic eye socket! WTF! All aided by a cracking soundtrack. A mish-mesh of Russian techno and 80s synth pop.

The first person POV perspective was fun. The only problem was that as the action got more chaotic, the more disoriented I felt. The shaki-cam drew flashbacks to my first viewing of Cloverfield. Didn’t think I could get vertigo watching a film. Sheesh.

You could tell this was written by a gamer fan boy. The riotous brothel shoot-em-up was ridiculous. Especially when Jimmy upset some attractive katana-bearing ninja dominatrix assassins. I’m not making this up, I swear!

What helped was that writer/director Ilya Naishuller didn’t take this too seriously. It was fun for all the wrong reasons BUT done in the right way. I laughed at the chaotic conversations between the Russians as they kicked off, throwing the subtitles into one big illiterate mess!

The only problem was that as it drew to its stupendous finale, I felt exhausted. The carnage cranking up to 11 as a mangled Kill Bill/A Clockwork Orange homage-inspired showdown took the biscuit. Seriously, at one point, Henry was climbing up bodies suspended in mid-air.

I knew it wasn’t going to win merits for plausibility BUT it really bugged me that Akan was the only one with telekinetic abilities. Why? Something to do with the bio-engineering, I guess.

However, it all spiralled into one big bloody mess that ended rather abruptly. BUT by that point, I didn’t care. After the random cameos, I expected Henry’s big reveal to be somebody . . . big. No disrespect to Andrei Dementiov.

If you’re up for a frantic no-holds barred action bloodfest to kill 90 minutes, then look no further. Otherwise steer clear.

2.5/5

ANNIHILATION REVIEW

Different . . . But worth watching?

A biologist (Natalie Portman) signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply.

An intriguing concept hammered by a meandering pace and a disappointing finale.

It was a little annoying knowing that the main story arc was being retold by Lena as it killed off the mystery that was to come. BUT the fractured time frame kept things engaging with the questions flying in thick and fast as the scenes flicked back and forth.

Portman delivered a sterling turn as the grief-stricken Lena. Struggling to move on from the loss of her partner Kane (Garland stalwart Oscar Isaac) who went MIA on his last expedition.

That was until he strolled into the house. Dishevelled, disoriented and unaware of the lost time.

The suspense set. My curiousity peaked. Alarm bells ringing. I was getting as confused and clueless as Kane.

The slow burning tempo complimented the first act as special ops intervened on Lena’s strange reunion. Whisking her away to a secret facility.

A religious event? Extra terrestrial activity? All we know is that they call it, “The Shimmer”.

Jennifer Jason Leigh’s hard ass psychologist quickly established the premise for our heroine. A meteor crashed into a lighthouse unleashing an expanding rainbow coloured mass (No, this isn’t the plot for The Blob).

The cause of Kane’s absence.

The middle act was where I was rewarded. A creepy unsettling visual feast as Lena and a team of female scientists embark on a journey for answers.

No compasses, no co-ordinates, no concept of time. 3 days had passed and the team had no recollection other than passing through the dreaded bubble.

The animation and special effects were fantastic. Despite my grumblings with the pace, I was left on tenterhooks as the team delved deeper into ‘The Shimmer’.

Just as I felt my patience was waning, there would be a new development. Be it a disturbing video message left on a memory stick. Or a new demented cross-breed.

Tessa Thompson’s encounter with a mutated gator with shark-like teeth was a particular highlight.

There was an air of unease throughout as well as a couple of jumpy moments (That got yours truly).

I loved how Garland and co. kept their cards close to their chests. Did Kane and his team go insane or was it something more? Why is this mass even here? Is it sentient? (Word of the day)

I was a little disappointed at Isaac’s minuscule role. Merely emerging in flashbacks and video clips. I also expected a little more from Tessa Thompson’s character.

However, this did allow more screen time for Jennifer Jason Leigh and gave Gina Rodriguez the opportunity to deliver a stand out performance.

The all-female dynamic worked well. My main complaint was that the characters lacked depth. I liked the tension as Lena chose not to share the fact that Kane was her husband as the team found footage of his expedition.

And before I could moan too much about the lack of character development, the team unwittingly fell prey to another mutation. Nail biting, to say the least.

A bear that wails with the cries of its fallen? Seriously, that thing will stick with me for some time. And don’t even get me started on those creepy plant scarecrow things. Yikes.

Annihilation seemed to fall apart when the team did. The paranoia and backstabbing was only a matter of time and once each member was picked off in one way or another, it all got a little predictable.

The drawn out and ambiguous ending left things on a flat note. Ex Machina was one of my favourite films of 2014 and I knew the finale was never going to be that easy.

BUT despite all the theories and existential discussions, there was only one way Annihilation could go. That final shot should have had me talking BUT I saw it coming and it just didn’t deliver after all that promise.

Despite sharing echoes of Sphere with a hint of The Edge (Great films. Cannot recommend enough), I felt the hype and lumbering pace spoiled something that could have been so much more.

By all means, if you’re still curious, this is still an unsettling and well-acted sci-fi thriller worth a watch BUT it just whether that final act will leave breathless in awe . . . or disappointment.

3/5