*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

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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

*NEW* BLACK PANTHER REVIEW *NEW*

Not in my top 3 Marvel but a good watch all the same.

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider (Michael B. Jordan) who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake.

Overhyped, maybe? Overrated . . . Now that’s pushing it.

As much as I commended Tom Holland’s scene stealing Spidey cameo in Captain America: Civil War, there was another actor I was looking forward to getting the full feature treatment.

And that was Chadwick Boseman.

He was brilliant. A charismatic presence that managed to make that seemingly silly cat costume look bad ass.

I loved how director Ryan Coogler and co introduced the team and explored T’Challa’s origins without making it seem like another origin movie. The dynamic set and a brief history of the mysterious Wakanda providing a context. No messing about.

Unfortunately not being a comic book fan, I didn’t realise the real source of T’Challa’s powers.

It skimmed over the events of Civil War for those who might not be as keen with their Marvel movies (But then why would you be watching this one?). Quickly establishing what T’Challa has been up to.

The cultural element certainly made this stand out or else BP would have been like any other Marvel film. The other world visuals were like something out of The Lion King.

Breathtaking. That GIF really doesn’t do it justice. The futuristic cityscape of Wakanda was a feast for the eyes. Rachel Morrison’s cinematography was sublime. Aided by an impressive soundtrack featuring the likes of Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd.

I really couldn’t fault the cast.

I have to commend the women in the film. Lupita Nyong’o was excellent as Nakia. An activist desperate to save the world and not fall into tradition, despite her feelings for the prince. She had great chemistry with Boseman and made that inevitable romance much more bearable.

Leticia Wright (Humans) was entertaining as the excitable techy sis. Her initial encounters with her brother were a little too cheesy BUT she won me over. Especially when she got to play with all her new toys.

The gadgets were impressive. From BP’s ultra-strong body armour to the virtual controlled car simulation that delivered some action packed set pieces.

Angela Bassett’s turn as Ramonda left little to be desired. Anyone could have played her. BUT she was nowhere near as disappointing as Forest Whitaker’s contribution to the mix. Just when I thought his supporting turn in Rogue One was bad . . . Sheesh.

Michionne from The Walking Dead was the scene stealer for me. Dania Gurira was brilliant. Her fight sequences packed a punch and her stern demeanour delivered the odd chuckle as T’Challa’s long suffering bodyguard Okoye.

The best Marvel villain?

Not for me. But Michael B. Jordan was a domineering presence (Seriously the dude was hench) and you did feel for his anguish once we learned a little more of his backstory. He even managed to make a ridiculous name like Killmonger seem menacing.

He chewed up every scene he was in. A worthy adversary to the newly appointed King.

I was disappointed at Daniel Kaluuya’s small role. I expected the Get Out star to have more of a presence. The Oscar nominee did his best BUT it just wasn’t enough.

I was more impressed with Andy Serkis. He lapped up the role with aplomb. A total maniac with his South African accent pinned down. Martin Freeman didn’t do too badly but I felt his part was a cameo that overstayed its welcome. The longer he stayed, the more awkward he stuck out.

BUT thankfully there was one inevitable gratuitous cameo that will never overstay its welcome. Hint, hint.

It was engaging, action packed and full of heart BUT by the closing act, the CGI felt as rushed as the finale. After all the build-up, things seemed to run out of steam and got a little chaotic.

From the hype, I expected a little more. Now don’t get me wrong, it was still exhilarating to watch BUT I couldn’t help but laugh when Mecha rhinos erupted into the already overcrowded battlefield. The effects got a little messy with the eclectic mix of colours clashing and things coming to a ridiculous close.

Marvel have mastered a winning formula; a perfect balance of humour, action and character and despite BP’s stumbles, it was still a solid entry and I look forward to more adventures in Wakanda.

It goes without saying (BUT I’m saying it anyway); please stay for the credits. There are TWO teasers if people are hungry for some Infinity War teasers.

3/5

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE REVIEW

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN REVIEW

Normally films like this put me on edge.

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) when her best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her older brother (Blake Jenner).

I didn’t think I’d enjoy this at all.

The endless praise and surprisingly high ratings piqued my curiousity. When I saw Miss Steinfeld in True Grit, I thought to myself, “She is going to be one to watch for the future” BUT the last few films I’ve seen her in, I’ve been disappointed. Playing nothing more than a neurotic, fast talking, annoying teenage daughter.

She really grated against me in Pitch Perfect 2.

Within the first ten minutes of Nadine’s verbal diarrhea, I thought I might have to switch this off. Her melodramatic cries for attention had me wincing. That was until she shared her feelings with a seemingly uncaring teacher (Woody Harrelson).

What ensued after was a pleasantly entertaining coming-of-age family drama that hit home.

The film flicked back and forth as we got a glimpse into Nadine’s past right up to the . . . edge of 17. The melancholy and nostalgia ripe for the picking as she made her first friend at pre-school and bumped heads with her erratic mother (Kyra Sedgwick).

Her dad being the wedge between them. An endearing relationship that was cut short (rather unexpectedly).

It was easygoing and funny enough as Nadine dealt with growing up, high school crushes, her sibling rivalry with her over achieving brother Darian (Nope, not a typo. Actual name) and those . . . embarrassing haircuts. Rocking a do that bared striking similarities to Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite.

However, being a teen drama, it wasn’t long before Nadine’s relatively tranquil and normal life came crashing down after walking in on her BFF in bed with Darian.

Throwing her into a helter skelter of emotions and self-reflection as she threatens to lose her only real friend and cause a rift in the family.

After commending Harrelson’s performance in Three Billboards last month, I was impressed to see that the comedy actor wasn’t a one trick pony (I know! True Detective, yeah yeah yeah). He really has matured as an actor and delivered a sterling turn as the cynical Mr Bruner.

I loved the dynamic between Nadine and her long suffering tutor. The tit for tat banter really made the film. A constant thorn in the miserable mentor’s side. BUT beneath that gloomy exterior, lied a man with a good heart. Desperate to see this neurotic teenager find her way and . . . leave him alone for a god damn second.

Hayden Szeto was brilliant as Erwin. The geeky film nerd desperate to win Nadine’s love and affection. The awkward cringe inducing first date, the idle chit chat, we’ve all been there. I felt for the poor chap as he got “friend zoned” again and again.

What I loved most about this film was how writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig tackled loneliness and isolation among the characters.

Nadine’s depression and frustrations reaching breaking point as she tries to break up the people who are desperately trying to help her. The stubbornness and refusal to see other people’s problems over her own as she acted out.

I was a little embarrassed to admit that I could relate to the headstrong 17 year old girl. I was dropped by my best friend in sixth form out of the blue which knocked my confidence for six and forced me to re-evaluate myself.

I know the situation was reversed for Nadine BUT the anguish and awkward encounters as she tried to branch out struck a chord for me. Brilliantly captured and acted perfectly by Steinfeld.

I wasn’t sure on what direction the film would take as it reached it’s emotional finale. I won’t spoil it. BUT worth a watch.

A pleasant surprise. Not without its imperfections. It was still a little cheesy and the pace did test in places BUT hype definitely helped this time around.

3.5/5

*NEW* KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE REVIEW *NEW*

Manners maketh the ridiculous sequel

When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, the Kingsmen’s journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US. These two elite secret organizations must band together to defeat a common enemy.

Stupid, bonkers, OTT and yet . . . Still highly entertaining.

The Kingsman are back BUT better? Well . . .

It would help to watch the first one. BUT if you haven’t, it’s not the end of the world (Although YOU MUST! It’s rather bloody good) as quick plot points are skimmed over anyway.

I mean, my mind drew a blank in the opening sequence as Charlie (Who? Thankfully there was a quick flashback) ambushed Eggsy (Taron Egerton) in a mental cab chase punch up.

I was a little anxious with the frenetic opening. It was too chaotic and, dare I say, silly for my liking. The frantic camera work, the over-indulgent CGI, I feared the worst. The soundtrack was on point though as Eggsy and Charlie punched the living daylights out of each other to Prince. Nice.

BUT once the pace settled down and the humour kicked in, I was still happy to be caught up in this crazy mess.

Egerton ran the show yet again and carried the film (when it tragically dragged).

Julianne Moore had a tough act to follow after Ssssssamuel (One for the Kingsman fans) L Jackson’s stellar turn in Secret Service BUT she played the psycho Poppy really well. If anything, I was disappointed at how small her screen time was.

Beneath the smiley Desperate Housewives persona lied one twisted individual. Don’t eat a burger from her. That’s all I’m saying.

I liked the idea of the Statesmen. The Kingsman’s American cousin. All the satire ripe for the picking. BUT after a fun introduction and some punny wordplay on their operative names; Tatum, Berry and Bridges were all left watching from the side lines. By the end, I wondered why they even bothered. Shame.

Thank God for Pedro Pascal’s (Game of Thrones/Narcos) laser lasso throwing cowboy Whiskey.

Colin Firth was a welcome return. Even with his ridiculous (but surprisingly plausible in a “Kingsman” way) revival. A much needed presence. The camaraderie with Eggsy was the heart of the first movie.

His presence made up for some of the messier parts of the movie. The only problem was that once Harry was back, Merlin was designated to Q status. A shame as up until that point; Mark Strong (The Brothers Grimsby) had been on scene stealing form. Benched (with the majority of the Statesmen) right up until the explosive finale.

My main quibble with The Golden Circle was that where the original got away with poking fun at James Bond (and the spy genre in general); this really did take things up to 11. A bit like Kick Ass 2. Funny, messed up BUT pushing its luck.

The middle act dragged and a reconnaissance mission at Glastonbury took the biscuit for me as Eggsy “planted” a bug into a model’s (Poppy Delevigne – Yup Cara’s sis) orifice (Nope, you read that right).

Now don’t get me wrong, the original wasn’t perfect. And to say, this sequel was silly by comparison is . . . silly in itself.

Especially when you had Sofia Boutella’s lethal Pistorius blade combination, Jackson’s blood phobia and THAT church scene . . . (My God! Pardon the irony) I will never listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd  in the same way again!

I just wasn’t caught up in it as much this time around.

Bruce Greenwood’s cameo as the President of the United States was mental. He reminded me of a similar world leader (with no concept of empathy or thought. Make of that what you will). His unique hostage negotiating skills spoke volumes.

BUT the real scene stealer was Sir Elton John. The Rocketman was bloody hilarious. He really didn’t give a damn, wasn’t afraid to poke fun at himself and was surprisingly agile for an ailing musician 😉

Despite the relentless CGI, the malingering pace and some mad plot holes, K: GC was still crazy fun with some entertaining and delightfully bloody and visceral action sequences.

A fun time filler if nothing else that won’t disappoint Kingsman fans too much.

3/5

*NEW* THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI REVIEW *NEW*

Three sterling turns and an Oscar hopefully.

A mother (Frances McDormand) personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

A brooding country noir riddled with black comedy. If it wasn’t for all the profanity, you could have said it was a Fargo sequel.

Bold, brash and a little long in the tooth BUT a damn good watch all the same.

Funny how three billboards can cause so much trouble? Originally aimed at the local sheriff William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), one woman’s crusade for justice causes a stir among the community.

Frances McDormand is a brilliant actress. I knew exactly what she would bring to the table. That bitter Olive Kitteridge grit. Sharp tongued, outspoken, on the war path and not giving a damn who knows it. A powerhouse performance.

She stole every scene. You really felt for her. Her frosty reception with the town priest and her discussion on the definition of the word ‘culpable’ was worth an Oscar nod alone.

All aided by a sterling script, of course. Penned by none other than the In Bruges (Highly recommended) writer/director Martin McDonagh.

The fiery quick witted dialogue delivered that sinister comical edge as Mildred dealt with all sorts of unsavoury characters as the townspeople soon let their feelings known on the billboards. An awkward trip to the dentist made for tense viewing.

The pacing did test in places. Originally I felt the film slackened when McDormand wasn’t involved in the mix. A compliment to her performance. BUT it also allowed for some sterling turns from a highly talented supporting cast.

Woody Harrelson was excellent in the understated role of Willoughby. A man desperate to keep the peace BUT plagued by his own demons and the system he had sworn to protect. A tragic hero if ever there was one. A performance full of nuance that knocked me for six. Proof that the Cheers star can act.

I wanted more exchanges between the struggling sheriff and the militant Mildred. Despite her anger with the law, there was still respect between them.

Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) played the simple ad clerk Red Welby brilliantly. His run-ins with Mildred delivered several humourous encounters. Ol’ Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) was wasted in his small role (No pun intended). He did his best BUT then again, this wasn’t his story.

I hope Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea) isn’t going to be typecast in the grieving son role. He worked well with McDormand and I liked the fractured mother/son relationship. It was just a shame that he was pushed into the background. Especially after a heated “family reunion” with his deadbeat dad.

The uneven middle act left me wondering where this was all going. The tone jumped from moments of violent, foul mouthed mayhem to ones of tearful reflection and sorrow. BUT as much as I was getting frustrated, I still wanted to seek out the end game.

The always underrated Sam Rockwell nearly stole the show from McDormand. His character Deputy Dixon was a particular highlight. I loved the journey that this dimwitted racist country mama’s boy went through. A rollercoaster ride if ever there was one. I hated him, I laughed at him, laughed with him and by the end, I felt sorry for the poor schmuck.

The second half of the film took a much more sombre turn than I expected. Especially when we delved a little more into Mildred’s and Willoughby’s background. It turned an incredibly witty black comedy into so much more as everything came to a thrilling and heart rending climax.

The final act and the bittersweet ending spoke volumes as it tackled grief, anger, hate BUT most importantly forgiveness. It didn’t quite deliver what I expected BUT I was left smiling after experiencing this redemptive journey with Mildred and Dixon, in particular.

Something I haven’t felt with any film in a while.

Try not to buy into the awards hype too much and approach the film for what it is. A brilliantly acted and darkly comical tale of anger, grief and redemption.

3.5/5