*NEW* READY PLAYER ONE REVIEW *NEW*

Spielberg is back baby!

But bigger and better?

When the creator of a virtual reality world (Mark Rylance – The BFG) called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.

An enjoyable romp. The man still knows how to deliver a blockbuster. Fantastic visuals, an entertaining premise, good fun BUT . . . NOT without its flaws.

We follow Tye Sheridan’s Wade (X-Men: Apocalypse) as he tries to break away from the hum drum life of “The Stacks”. A poverty stricken district constructed of caravans piled on top of each other.

Those caravans. Seriously, the Jenga style structure triggered my vertigo.

A futuristic cityscape set in the 2040s where people are more interested in escaping to the OASIS and their avatars than worry about the ever-expanding and overpopulated towns. A fitting statement if ever there was one.

BUT at that same stroke, Ready Player One really struck home with the gamer nerd in me and that sense of community and escapism that gaming can offer. A bit like the movie itself.

The visual effects were outstanding. The only problem was that there was so much going in one frame that there was TOO much going on. A mad car chase sequence hit me like a rainbow-infused punch. The colours, the energy. It was chaotic.

There was King Kong, Robocop, the Jurassic Park T-Rex. I didn’t know if I was still supposed to be watching Wade – Sorry, “Parzival” (His alias) razzing around in a DeLorean or not?

The puzzle solving was intriguing enough as Wave delved into the recesses of his childhood hero Halliday’s memories for clues to unlock another key to the OASIS. All archived in a library. Seriously, there wasn’t enough Mark Rylance. The Wayne World’s inventor was brilliant.

There was one level of the game that involved one of my favourite movies. The in-jokes and metatextual references had me in stitches. Obviously the rest of the audience weren’t fans as I laughed out loud at as “Parzival”‘s partner in crime, H unsuspectingly wondered into a certain room *cough* Room 237 *cough*

That sequence alone ticked all the boxes for me.

Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) was brilliant as Art3mis/Samantha. She had great chemistry with Sheridan and they madBe a great duo. That dance-off shouldn’t have worked as well as it did.

Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) was the epitome of a slimy corporate exec BUT despite his best efforts and Thanos-inspired avatar, I found him a little weak. And for a man hell bent on taking over the cyber world, he wasn’t very clued up on password protection.

I was disappointed at the lack of T.J. Miller. I know the guy has caused a bit of controversy in the press but the Silicon Valley star knows how to steal the show as Mendelsohn’s minion, I-R0K.

I was annoyed that we only saw his avatar. Bearing in mind that we got to see Wade’s band of loveable rogues.

The detail on the avatars was incredible; meshing in the actors traits and facial expressions perfectly.

NOW I’ve never read the book. I was only aware from the heavy PR that RPO revolved around teenage gamers fanboying over the 80s and tech. Despite the amazing visuals, endless 80s references and zippy pace, the film lost momentum as its reached it’s super corny finale.

It was far too schmaltzy and OTT for my liking. Tye Sheridan delivering a nauseating speech in leather-clad spandex? Meh. The Iron flippin’ Giant evaporating endless cannon fodder?! HELL YES! (What?!)

Come on, that is kinda cool.

BUT what did I expect? These are kid gamers taking on the world. If you keep that in mind, you might not be as disappointed by the finale as I was.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still riveting, engaging and filled with all sorts of nostalgia BUT the end game was a little rushed and tacky.

This won’t top Spielberg’s greats BUT this wasn’t his worst by a country mile.

Either way, it’s worth a watch at any cost.

3/5

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THE HOUSE REVIEW

The House always win? Not with jokes like these.

After the town takes away their daughter’s college scholarship, a couple (Will Ferrell/Amy Poehler) start an illegal casino in their friend’s (Jason Mantzoukas) house to make back the money.

Sheesh. What is going on with comedies these days? Look, I’m not looking for groundbreaking stuff BUT a time filler with a few laughs isn’t too much to ask . . . Is it?

Apparently so.

Okay, the opening act wasn’t that bad and Ferrell and Poehler made an entertaining duo as the mollycoddling parents rehearsed a “What if” scenario with a “shady college guy” to their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins).

I don’t know how many of the one liners were improvised BUT I just wish the two comedians were allowed to break free from the weak material more.

Ferrell pretending to be “Geppetto” (Because he makes all the girls his puppets) had me in stitches. He worked well off Poehler. BUT alas, that banter couldn’t stick.

Scott’s (Ferrell) numbers anxiety and shrieking got on my nerves. Seriously, his miscalculations gags weren’t funny the first time, so why did we have umpteen of them? Thank God for Poehler’s put downs.

Jason Mantzoukas (Dirty Grandpa) stoke the show as their emotionally unhinged friend Frank. A supporting act that didn’t overstay his welcome.

The group dynamic (thankfully) worked a lot better once the couple lost their daughter’s scholarship and things did get a little more entertaining.

The casino set-up was quite fun as the gang evaded the local authority’s wandering eyes.

The House excelled with some of its more sillier moments. BUT when it didn’t work, it felt drawn out and cringe worthy.

A Casino gag in which the trio taught a “cheat” a lesson delivered the laughs and some unexpected gore as Ferrell fumbled around, looking for said cheat’s thumb after an unfortunate encounter with an axe.

Nope? Not selling it. That was the best bit.

Nick Kroll (Sausage Party) and Alison Tolman’s (Fargo) philandering council officials’ subplot was bland and uninteresting. Great actors in their own right BUT they brought nothing to the mix.

I would have been happier to see more of Frank failing to win back his wife.

The first hour did kill the time and was surprisingly watchable as the neighbourhood soon joined in on the action. At one point, there were bets being placed as neighbours participated in bare knuckle fist fights.

Yeah, it’s that sort of movie.

BUT the film soon run out of steam (and material) as the big life got to the couple’s heads. Seriously, it just wasn’t funny. Poehler and Ferrell beating people up and throwing money around was just overkill.

It spiralled downwards into one big chaotic mess in the worst way possible with repetitive comedy falls, endless swearing, unfunny gags and hammy sentiment.

Even a surprise cameo in the fiery finale couldn’t save the day. I couldn’t believe this particular Avenger had popped up in this as a mobster. It was just a shame that he wasn’t any funnier.

Despite its moments, I wouldn’t bet big with this one. Unless you really want a gamble with your time, then be my guest.

2/5

ROUGH NIGHT REVIEW

Yikes! I’d rather have a rough night than watch this again.

Things go terribly wrong for a group of girlfriends who hire a male stripper for a bachelorette party in Miami.

A highly unfunny opening college flashback didn’t build my hopes up. It was good to see that ScarJo was up for a laugh BUT this was a major step down for the Avengers star.

A shame considering the talent on display; Jillian Bell (22 Jump St), Broad City’s Ilana Glazer and Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon. Funny people in their own right. BUT as much as they gave it their all; the material was dreadfully weak.

Things fared a little better when the film flash forwarded 10 years later with ScarJo’s Jess running for senate. Her ad campaign was a brilliant Hillary Clinton parody.

The reserved workaholic needing a break from her busy schedule while the rest of the gang were desperate for any excuse to escape their problems.

Popping a champagne bottle delivered a poorly timed airport gag BUT it managed to get a guilty chuckle out of me. That gag pretty much summed up the film.

“The house is everything I hate. I’m gonna take a protest dump”.

There was the occasional funny one liner and the dynamic among the girls was entertaining enough BUT the endless swearing, drug taking, shouting and penis gags got old and got old quick!

Thankfully, Kate McKinnon’s introduction into the mix spiced things up. The awkward new BFF joining the posse.

Upsetting Jillian Bell’s Alice with her very presence. Her eccentric spirit guru (and crazy Nicole Kidman-esque accent) were a much needed presence. Complete with Veggie Mite in tow.

30 minutes in, I was surprised at the dark turn that the film took after Alice’s unfortunate incident with a “stripper”. An act of desperation?

By the end . . . Yes.

It delivered the odd titter BUT the stop/start pace and mismatched tone hampered the piece.

Even the naff subplot with Jess’ effeminate fiance (Paul W. Downs) was a huge misstep. The wine tasting was silly enough BUT the “sad astronaut” gag triggered one drawn out and highly unsavoury sequence involving adult diapers, meth and strange encounters at a petrol station.

It had potential with the Mad Dogs meets The Hangover vibe as the girls’ crazy weekend spiralled out of control with mistaken identity, dodgy coppers and drugged up strippers BUT it just didn’t work.

It tried to be serious with the friends coming to terms that their lives were taking different paths as everything came to blows. It didn’t work.

You had Kate McKinnon somersaulting off a moving jet ski as it ploughed into the beach . . . Meh.

A lechy Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) from Modern Family and naked Demi Moore did nothing to save matters. The sex-crazed swingers next door just killed the already lumbering pace of this hit and miss yarn.

It even resorted to desperate measures with ScarJo busting out some of her Black Widow moves to knock out some burglars.

If any of what I listed above sounded alright then this might be for you.

I watched it to the end BUT that was mainly to see how much worse it was got.

I expected more or at least something passable BUT despite the odd chuckle here and there, I think this is going to be a black mark on the Black Widow’s stellar CV.

Okay, I’m done with the Black Window references.

Take it away Kevin Sorbo Hercules . . .

2/5

THE DARK TOWER REVIEW

The DULL Tower?

With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only the last Gunslinger Roland Dechain (Idris Elba) can defend the Tower from Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), the Man in Black.

BE WARNED. I’ve never read the Stephen King novels so do NOT murder me for saying that I found this quite watchable. From the scathing ratings on Metacritic, I expected something so much worse.

BUT I’m sure if one of my favourite franchises that span SEVEN books was dumbed down and condensed into a 90 minute film, I might feel completely differently.

The strange opening certainly got things going with the credits explaining about a dark tower protecting the universe from darkness and some guff about only the mind of a child bringing it down.

Cue kids strapped in machines and some weird rodent creatures disguising themselves as humans (No wonder this had a 12A rating). Dark BUT engaging as the film flicked back and forth between “worlds” from Roland’s civil war stand-off to Jake’s apocalyptic nightmares.

I thought Tom Taylor played the role of Jake quite well. I couldn’t stand him in BBC’s Doctor Foster. Bullied at school, plagued by visions of the Man in Black. Paranoia or something more?

Matthew McConaughey lapped it up as Walter O’Dim. What a name! About as bad as his hair: “You will lose that power you have to resist my magics”. Waving his hand around like a Jedi and dispensing commands: “Hate, kill each other, stop breathing”. Creepy.

The pace didn’t really mess about. It jumped from one scene to the next establishing Walter and Roland’s rivalry as well as Jake being the key to  . . . everything. Snore.

It took a good half hour before Elba’s gunslinger (Steady now) was brought into the fold properly. A man hell bent on vengeance. Elba bossed it and worked worked well with Taylor to make that inevitable pairing much more bearable.

The special effects were quite impressive and Rasmus Videbaek’s cinematography was brilliant. Aided by another stellar score from Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road).

The main issue I had with The Dark Tower was that it felt a little too rushed. All that build up and promise for a mad dash finale that didn’t seem to leave much open. If there was supposed to be more sequels . . .

I had so many questions: “What was the deal with the rat things? Was it all magic and sorcery? Why alternate dimensions/realities?”. It took me an hour to realise that there were different versions of Earth. One still dormant in the 18th Century with futuristic gizmos apparently? Wild Wild West, this ain’t.

I was a little disappointed that McConaughey and Elba spent so much of the movie apart. When they were on screen together, it was gold.

Roland’s encounters with “the Earth people” were quite entertaining; “You have forgotten the faces of your fathers”, he solemnly declares to some drunk ladies on a bus as they try to chat him up.

If anything, I wanted more. 90 minutes wasn’t enough and it didn’t make full use of the supporting cast. You had Watchmen‘s Jackie Earle Haley playing such a measly role. BUT not as disappointing as Katheryn Winnick’s role.

You had Lagertha from Vikings at your disposal. Why give her such a weak part? Don’t get me wrong, there was enough emphatic exchanges between her and Taylor to make you feel for the mother and son. BUT again . . . it was NOT enough.

The action sequences were entertaining. I just wish there was a little more inventive gun play.

Considering this was the last Gunslinger who reloads quicker than the human eye, he still seemed a little laboured shooting from the hip . . . No, sorry. The heart. How did that annoying chant go?

There are blockbusters that push for the 120-150 minute mark when they really shouldn’t (*Cough* Transformers *Cough*) BUT I would have been happy to explore this universe a little more.

Shame. And that was someone who didn’t read the books.

DT offered action and entertainment to kill the time BUT it felt like it was afraid to take a chance and flesh out the stories involved.

2.5/5

THE RITUAL REVIEW

If only they could have summoned up a quicker pace . . .

A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them.

The opening act set the tone as the lads (comprising of a talented and underrated British cast) debated about their next excursion. Lulling us into a false sense of security as they bantered and bickered over locations.

I’ve had the same discussion with my friends many a time about our European outings.

However, a simple beer run soon turned everything on its head as a cowardly Luke (Rafe Spall – Hot Fuzz) hid during a botched supermarket robbery leaving his best friend to face a gruesome end.

Forward six months to a now embittered Luke begrudgingly hiking in Northern Sweden. A man still tortured by his dreams. Living that same night over and over.

The slow burning tempo complimented the piece (To start with . . . ). The air of unease, the eerily tranquil forest setting, Ben Lovett’s incredible and unsettling score.

Andrew Shulkind’s cinematography was brilliant. He managed to make a somewhat grainy outlook picturesque.

The cast delivered. A must when the premise relied heavily on four characters. Robert James-Collier (Ol’ Thomas from Downton Abbey) almost stole the show from Spall.

“Well, this is the house we get murdered in”.

The dynamic worked well and the exchanges were entertaining enough as the film teased us with creepy little tidbits; butchered animals hanging in the trees, strange Blair Witch Project like markings.

It wasn’t long before a blistering storm and an untimely injury for a party member forced the gang to seek shelter in an abandoned cabin. I loved the Evil Dead vibe. The eerie noises. And that demented Wicker Man looking effigy?!

Seriously, I would have endured the storm than stay in that cabin. Sheesh.

By the half hour marker, I could feel my interest wading BUT things took a stranger turn as the gang experienced trippy and demented Hangover style blackouts. Losing all sense of time/space/whereabouts. Straying further from their path home.

I kept wondering why we only saw Luke’s (repetitive and incredibly irritating) nightmares and none of the others? All we had was pure hearsay. Without unleashing any spoilers, I really hoped that the film was going to stray down The Thing territory BUT alas it was not to be . . .

I still loved the fact that you didn’t know what direction this film was going to take right up to the closing minutes as the gang tried to escape their impending doom.

There were a few jumpy bits with some fine moments of perfectly executed suspense and tension. Even when the inevitable bickering and rising body count began.

I also loved how we didn’t know what was attacking them right up until its big reveal in the gripping finale.

The only problem I had with The Ritual was that I thought there might have been a little more to it. After the big unveiling of the “creature”, it rushed to a frantic (albeit nail biting) climax. It just felt a little abrupt after all that build up.

BUT I was pleasantly surprised. A weird, creepy little horror worthy of your time.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* DEATH WISH REVIEW *NEW*

I must have had one watching this tripe . . .

Well, that was what I thought I was going to say.

Regardless of what I think of the man, Bruce Willis can still hold his own in this violent revenge flick.

Dr Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is an experienced trauma surgeon, a man who has spent his life saving lives. After an attack on his family, Paul embarks on his own mission for justice.

After the ghastly ratings, I expected something really dire. Being a fan of the original cult crime classic, I wasn’t the happiest to hear of a remake. I mean who could top the icon that was Charles Bronson?! BUT I found this latest rehash surprisingly watchable.

The rapid opening sequence (with a fantastic panning shot) riddled with reports of shootings all over Detroit spoke volumes. Finger on the pulse stuff for a generic shoot-em-up. Especially with what’s been happening with gun crime in the US.

Willis’ robotic introduction didn’t give me high hopes . . . At first. He was always going to have a tough act to follow. BUT it added a degree of cynicism to the surgeon as he apologised to the copper whose partner he couldn’t save. And then moved over to the next bed and saved the monster who killed him.

The family melodrama was incredibly cheesy BUT easy going enough as we waited for the inevitable to happen.

The pacing did leave a little to be desired BUT I wasn’t bored. I liked the fact that Kersey didn’t turn into a stone cold killer straight away. A slow burning montage showed a gradual transformation as this down beaten man grew frustrated with the system and his psychiatrist (Wendy Crewson – Air Force One).

Dean Norris was literally playing Hank from Breaking Bad as Detective Raines. Tied by the rules and hoping for the best.

It took a good 40 minutes before Kersey began his vigilante spree. Donning his Unbreakable hoodie and terrorising the streets.

I was a little sceptical that the tone felt as muddled as its message. It may have raised debates about gun crime and vigilantism BUT it was a bit hard to be taken seriously when Willis would then shoot a drug dealer to a bloody pulp in the next frame.

A scene between Kersey and his father in law (Len Cariou – Blue Bloods) was incredibly hammy as the old boy fended off some poachers and preached about “a man defending his own”. Yawn.

The mismatched song choices killed off the seriousness of certain scenes. Using YouTube to learn how to shoot and assemble guns to AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ spoiled what could have been a satirical boiling point.

However, the consumerization of gun culture was brilliantly encapsulated with Bethany, the sales girl at the Jolly Rogers’ gun emporium: “Easy forms to fill, nobody ever fails gun safety class, 100 per cent American made”. Talking about weapons like they were new cars. Kersey’s smirk at such hypocrisy said it all.

The vengeance spree was violent enough as the vigilante ‘honed his craft’. Working his way through the food chain. Looking for the ones who tore his family apart. An unsavoury interrogation with a shady car mechanic did not make for easy viewing after just eating a big ol’ bowl of spaghetti. That’s all I’m saying.

To be honest, I was more surprised at how ‘tame’ this really was. Especially when the director at the helm was Eli “Hostel” Roth. Normally the master of disgust BUT I was relieved to see that NOT everything was taken from the original i.e. the unsavoury rape scene.

It is what is. A violent actioner. Willis held his own and carried the film. It killed the time and deliver what I expected.

It wasn’t perfect and the kills were hardly memorable. I still remember Bronson’s newspaper kill (No, he didn’t kill a guy with a newspaper). BUT nowhere near as unmemorable as Wendy Crewson’s psychiatrist or Vincent D’Onofrio as Kersey’s useless (and incredibly annoying) brother-in-law. Nothing more than a meaningless red herring.

You could pick at the fact that if the police were looking for a vigilante in a dark hoodie, you wouldn’t walk into a public nightclub in said garb with pistol in tow. Come on!

BUT despite the muddled politics and mismatched tone, did we really expect this to be anything other a bloody shoot-em-up?

I just wish that cheeky trigger pose didn’t come off so tacky. Sorry, McClane. Charles Bronson, you ain’t.

2.5/5

*NEW* ISLE OF DOGS REVIEW *NEW*

Did you hear the rumours? What rumours? That Isle of Dogs is pretty good.

Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog.

Confession time, I’m not the biggest Wes Anderson fan. BUT I loved his take on Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox. His quirky whimsical style suiting the children’s book to perfection. I was really excited to see what his next foray into stop-motion animation would offer.

Did it live up to the hype? (Uh . . . You just put it was good).

All barks have been translated into English while humans speak in native tongues or by interpreter/foreign exchange student/electronic device.

I knew what I was getting myself into.

Alexandre Desplat’s grandiose score and Courtney B. Vance’s (American Crime Story) brooding narration helped liven up a crazy prologue titled ‘The Boy Samurai’. A strange fable about a century long vendetta between a renowned Japanese dynasty (The Kobyashi clan) and .  . . Some dogs. Okay then . . .

Flash forward to 20 years in the future and an outbreak of snout fever has spread among canines in the city of Megasaki with a risk of infecting humans. In a hasty measure by Mayor Kobayashi, all dogs are dumped on ‘Trash Island’. Left to their demise.

The animation was fantastic. The detail, the expressions, the set designs. Brilliant. Matching the zany nature of our eccentric director. Come on, even the title spells; I LOVE DOGS.

The dogs really did steal the show. Their Magnificent Seven Western showdown introduction had me in stitches. Piles of litter rolling across like tumbleweed as they fought rival packs for scraps. I loved the cartoony cloud scuffles.

The cast were superb; featuring a mixture of regular Anderson stalwarts and new faces (Well, voices in this case). Edward Norton was a particular highlight as Rex. BUT each dog had their moment to shine from Goldblum’s gossiping to Murray’s meanderings. However, none of them could top Chief.

Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston delivered that Heisenberg tenacity to the hostile hound. A dog that has never had a “master” and refuses to accept one.

That is until one of those said “masters” crash lands on Trash Island looking for his lost dog.

I loved the endearing relationship that developed between Chief and Atari (Koyu Rankin) as the stubborn stray (initially) refused to help. The lost in translation shtick complimented the film.

I didn’t have an issue with the lack of subtitles as Atari raged in his native tongue. The detail in the eyes said it all. The emotion captured perfectly in a wonderful flashback between him and his beloved dog Spots (Liev Schreiber – Ray Donovan).

And luckily when some of the conversations in Megasaki got a little dense, we had the fantastic Frances McDormand and Greta Gerwig for interpretation.

That was the only problem. When the humans were involved, the pace dragged and; if it wasn’t for Gerwig’s hilarious political activist/foreign exchange student Tracy, my interest would have completely waded.

The maniacal Mayor’s canine vendetta and conspiracy to thwart scientists for a cure was dull as dishwater. I just wanted to get back to Trash Island.

“You should see the other dog. I think he was made of stainless steel”.

The crazy canines and their quest to help Atari was full of heart and had all the Anderson quips and humour we’ve come to love.

Even the kanji was translated during a news report with such phrases as: (Sad funeral) and (Tragic disaster).

“Maybe it’s me, I’m not a doctor or maybe it’s the clutch pedal accelerator in the side of his head but . . . ”

Too adult for kids? I think this could leave the little ‘uns fidgeting in their seats.

Don’t get me wrong, the dogs were fantastic and their hilarious convos were comedy gold BUT the student protests in Megasaki and animal rights debates was a tall order even for yours truly.

The journey was entertaining and delivered a few surprises along the way, with a number of eclectic characters popping up from Harvey Keitel’s cannibal crew to Tilda Swinton’s prophetic pug.

BUT this wasn’t perfect by any means. It was tough NOT to make comparisons to Fantastic Mr Fox, which this fell short of.

Scarlett Johansson was wasted as show dog Nutmeg. She had good chemistry with Cranston’s Chief and it teased a little side story that didn’t surmount to anything.

The final showdown was a little flat as Anderson traded robot dogs and quirky humour for haikus and pretentious speeches in a giant conference hall.

I was a little disappointed at how Chief and his band of merry misfits were strangely absent in the chaotic finale. Shame.

It felt like something was missing. I couldn’t fault the charm and heart behind this zany flick and I still smile thinking of certain scenes BUT it wasn’t enough for the talent at hand and the characters that were at their disposal. I was left wanting.

BUT fans of WA and stop-motion animation will not be disappointed.

3/5