*NEW* BROOKLYN REVIEW *NEW*

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A great cast reprieved this pleasantly easygoing (if slightly underwhelming) drama.

An Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a new romance. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

Ronan has developed into quite the actress. Brooklyn was the perfect showcase for her. She gave an excellent performance and carried the piece very well. BUT for all the hype and praise, I expected so much more. BUT that’s not to say, I didn’t enjoy it.

The opening half hour was easygoing enough as Eilis (Ronan) prepared to embark on the journey of a lifetime. The petty squabbling with Brid Brennan’s scornful shopkeeper and teary send offs with Eilis’ sister and mother kept things ticking over.

Her journey to America certainly picked up the pace. The conditions in which she travelled in were surprising. Crammed into small compartments and forced to share the same toilet. Things got even worse when the poor girl suffered from food poisoning.

Eva Birthistle (Ae Fond Kiss) delivered a memorable turn in the small role of Eilis’ seasoned travel companion. Sending Eilis on her way with some handy advice. Once Eilis got to America, the pace did slacken BUT you could feel for her as she struggled to fit in with her job at a department store with the stern Miss Fortini (Mad Men’s Jessica Pare).

The homesick letter sequences between Eilis and her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott – Omagh) managed to crack the most cynical of critics. I noticed a few teary eyes. No, not mine. I loved how they conveyed their relationship over a few simple letters. Well done.

Julie Walters was brilliant and on fine form as the hilarious and uptight boarding house keeper Mrs Keogh. I couldn’t believe that Felicity Smoak from Arrow (Emily Bett Rickards) featured as one of the vindictive boarding house girls. Desperate to snag a man.

Jim Broadbent gave a stellar supporting performance as Father Flood and delivered a convincing Irish accent. Aiding Eilis in her time of need. I really wished he was in this more. BUT of course, it wasn’t long before our heroine fell in love. Awww (Yuck).

Emory Cohen wasn’t strong enough for me as Tony. He didn’t quite pull off the cheeky Italian American that well. BUT he did have good chemistry with Ronan which made up for the hammy performance and I was happy to watch the pair’s blossoming romance.

However after receiving some tragic news, Eilis must return home. I will admit I haven’t read the novel and if it wasn’t for the heavily flogged trailers, the news would have been more of a shocker. Alas it was not to be.

Eilis must make a choice to stay home or go back to the love of her life as more and more temptations are thrown in her path. Domhnall Gleeson (About Time) did well with the role of Jim Farrell BUT the character didn’t really have enough screen time to make a convincing option for Eilis. I understand that it might have been a retread of what we had already seen with Tony BUT you could see how he was appealing to Eilis on a different level.

For the all the potential drama hanging over her with the community and her mother’s desperate efforts to keep her home, it didn’t quite kick off as much as I had expected. It was all far too tame.

Director John Crowley (Boy A) and writer Nick Hormby (About A Boy) only scraped the surface of immigration. A touching scene where Eilis assists at a soup kitchen hit home. The majority of the homeless being Irish immigrants who had tried to find a better life in America.

BUT it was a little too light and fluffy. Despite some touching moments and that meandering build up, the ending was quite rushed and far too abrupt for my liking.

A superb cast and an easygoing pace do just enough to keep things watchable. BUT for all the praise, I was left wanting. Shame.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* CAROL REVIEW *NEW*

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Two superb performances reprieve an overhyped and overlong affair.

Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk (Rooney Mara) who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman (Cate Blanchett).

I think this was another case of hype being a hindrance. I don’t know what I was expecting BUT somehow it didn’t quite deliver.

The pace was far too long. I didn’t mind watching the slow burning romance blossom BUT that there wasn’t much else. Romance movies were never my forte and the subject matter wasn’t as engaging as I had hoped.

I mean it in the best way because their relationship seemed so normal. With the legalisation of gay marriage and the rise of movies focusing on the gay rights movement and gay characters, it has marked a progressive change in perception.

All I saw was a normal relationship between two people. Of course, what helped was good characters and great acting that allowed you to buy into it. Blanchett and Mara were superb. They had fantastic chemistry and really made the relationship work.

The meandering pace really didn’t help things. It dipped in and out. This could have been done in 90 minutes and been better for it. The 50s controversial context gave it the much needed spice and things took a nastier turn when Carol’s husband Harge (Kyle Chandler – Friday Night Lights) came into the mix.

You felt for Carol as Harge battles the court to take her daughter away. Fighting for full custody on the grounds of breaking a “morality cause”. His anger and obsession to control Carol was daunting stuff and allowed for some tense moments. His volatile mood swings and drunken stupor created a threatening menace. But beneath all that bravado was a man scorned.

Carol is soon forced to make a decision to face the “moral” implications and have her dirty laundry about her previous relationships aired in the courts at the risk of losing her daughter or give up the love of her life. It was interesting watching Carol’s relationship with her previous lover Abby (Sarah Poulson – American Horror Story). A future glimpse of what could lie in store. A lonely woman haunting a big house.

The closing 30 minutes picked up the pace. The love scenes were dealt with tactfully BUT it’s not as if both actresses have been shy in front of the camera before. Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) played the confused Therese to perfection while Blanchett proved once again why she deserved that Oscar gold (Blue Jasmine) in a fantastic little scene as she pleaded with Harge one last time.

Edward Lachman’s cinematography was very unflattering. It added a much needed realism to the piece BUT was far too grainy and just terrible to look at. Carter Burwell’s musical score created the perfect mood setting and worked really well with the scenes.

I also didn’t expect to see Cory “The Riddler” Michael Smith from Gotham in a surprising supporting role.

Carol was definitely worth a watch to see two fantastic actresses at their best BUT I needed a little more story told in a shorter pace. There were a couple of things I didn’t expect BUT it still ended with the same end result. Shame.

2.5/5

THE AGE OF ADALINE REVIEW

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Lively and Huisman excel in an easygoing and endearing love story. Even if you may have seen it all before.

A young woman (Blake Lively), born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man (Michiel Huisman) who complicates the eternal life she has settled into.

The concept is Forever (The recently cancelled immortal drama with Ioan Gruffudd). A freak accident and suddenly a young girl is unable to age. Predictable and a little corny BUT with an enigmatic cast and characters I actually cared about, I was happy to indulge.

Lively (Gossip Girl) delivered a sterling performance and wasn’t too bad on the eye either. What? Come on, ladies. You have Huisman’s torso to look at.

The film goes at an easygoing pace as we flick back and forth through the life of Adaline. The narration by Hugh Ross was okay to begin with. Filling in the blanks as we flash through the early years. Straight to the point and easy character building.

However, the ongoing commentary in every other scene soon got really annoying and a little unnecessary. His detailed explanation of how the lightning strike activated Adaline’s immortality just made the whole thing sound even more ridiculous. Some waffle about a scientific theory in 2035 proving this probability really didn’t help its case. Anyhoo . . .

It wasn’t long before people suspect something’s not right when Adaline hasn’t aged a day at 45. A simple traffic infraction with a local officer soon puts her on the run for the next 60 years! It was good how they tied in Adaline running from the law with the Communist witch hunt that consumed America in the 50s.

The paranoia, the questions, the reason why she stays living a life of secrecy but never truly living. She still has to make secret rendezvouses with her own daughter who has to pretend to be her grandmother. Yes, just like Forever. Ellen Burstyn (Interstellar) and Lively worked well together. To be honest, I would have been happy to see more of their relationship. Not enough of Burstyn.

We join Adaline as she is preparing herself another identity and a quiet peaceful life. That is until Ellis Jones arrives on the scene.

Huisman and Lively have fantastic chemistry and make the inevitable luvvy duvvy stuff that much more bearable. Huisman (Game of Thrones) was charismatic and made some of the cornier chunks of dialogue that bit more bearable. I don’t mind watching a couple inevitably get together as long as it isn’t too OTT and the characters are not irritating. So well done to the pair of them as we see Adaline desperately trying to turn down the advances of a man who is transfixed.

The courting ensues while the chemistry bubbles. Adaline finally lowering her guard. That is until (Not again!) she meets Ellis’ father, William. An old flame from her past.

Harrison Ford was brilliant. A return to form for Solo. He played the melancholic moper well. It certainly spiced things up as William refuses to accept that Adaline is a mere relation. The flashback sequences with younger William and Adaline melded with the present worked well.

Anthony Ingruber. I couldn’t believe how much he looked like Harrison Ford. It was uncanny. Did they have a good make up artist? CGI? If Lucas was considering bringing back the Indiana Jones franchise than look no further.

Amanda Crew (Sex Drive) was the only actress that I was disappointed with. But that was because her role was so unmemorable. If anything, her character wasn’t really needed. Other than to be another player in a family game of Trivial Pursuit. A shame.

Everything comes to a head and ends oh so predictably. BUT it was endearing, highly watchable and wasn’t the worst way to kill a couple of hours. Just don’t think too much into the not ageing thing because the explanations just made the plot hole even worse.

A great cast and great chemistry makes this one to give a go.

3/5

TOP 20 BEST FILMS OF 2014 * PART TWO

SO HERE WE ARE . . . AT LAST. The second month into 2015.

I know, terrible. For those who are still interested, we have the SECOND PART of my best films of 2014. The top 11-20!

Feel free to search through my posts for my top 10. If you want, I can provide them.

The best (or better) ones of that mediocre movie year. My criteria mainly focused on the ones that surprised, intrigued and entertained me. And boy, it was tough. Many have been watchable. Okay at best. What was harder was condensing my 20 WORST films of 2014 (Which will be following shortly).

BUT there were diamonds in the rough sea of bilge that polluted the movie screens last year.

I have had to endure endless entries of mindless drivel regurgitating the same old plot, clichéd characters (even in their 3D wrapped foils) and excruciating acting or dreadful dialogue and to be honest, it’s killed my enthusiasm a little bit.

Now some entries you may question and unfortunately release dates are always different. My argument was films I saw in that year at the cinema. Some may have been released at the end of 2013 but I didn’t see them until early January 2014.

BUT that sums up my argument if they are in here.

I won’t go on too much about each film. That’s what the other posts are for but a quick two cents if you like. Some I hope you will nod in approval. Others you may scroll back and forth hoping that this is a joke. BUT my criteria is based on surprise, entertainment and engagement. So God knows what lies in store.

11. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Now I am actually reading the book. This film lost marks for stretching out its source material to the max. However, Jackson still manages to deliver the goods by harvesting a special effects extravaganza of a movie. This slicker, darker installment made up for the lumbering opener that was An Unexpected Journey. The pace may still have been a little long at the tooth BUT was certainly the best in Jackson’s second trilogy.

12. Captain America: Winter Soldier

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A Marvel sequel that wasn’t needed but surprised me in surpassing the stuttery original. I felt the first Captain America was rushed to introduce the Cap in time for the Avengers and didn’t really cover as much of the WW2 elements as I had hoped. A superhero fighting in the war had a lot more promise for me. BUT the sequel had a decent story, good action pieces and added depth to the ‘Cap. Plus it gave a lot more screen time to the Black Widow and the legendary Nick Fury (At last!)

13. The Raid 2

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Fast and furious . . . after an hour of droll exposition. BUT it was still the most intense action film I saw that year. The final 45 minutes surpassed the original in suspense and action. Worth the wait. It may not have beat the original overall BUT other films need to use this as the next “How To Make An Action Movie” textbook.

14. St Vincent

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Bill Murray at his best in this easy going indie dramedy. It was funny, well acted with some cracking one liners and an impressive debut from young wunderkid Jaeden Lieberher.

15. Before I Go To Sleep

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A tense, slowburning but well crafted psychological thriller. Memento meets While You Were Sleeping. Even if I had sussed the big twist. The unveiling still took me by surprise. I thought the cast were fantastic. Kidman was on fine form and the last 15 minutes were brilliant.

16. The Maze Runner

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You read that, right? We had numerous teen book bestseller franchises flooding the screens. Divergent, Hunger Games, The Giver and . . . The Maze Runner. I went in, really expecting the worst and for the majority of the film, I was hooked. It’s hardly original but it zipped along and stopped me grumbling.

17. Nightcrawler

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A superb performance from Gyllenhaal. Deservedly earning a BAFTA nomination. Somehow managing to out-Bale Bale in this dark take on the American dream. Satirical, grim and engrossing. If a little predictable with an abrupt ending BUT still worth a gander.

18. The Guest

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Mr Crawley has left the Abbey and he’s kicking ass and taking names. A cracking and charismatic performance in this strange but riveting indie action flick. It felt like a film of two halves. Some may not like how it pans out BUT it certainly took me by surprise. Badass film of 2014? Hell yeah!

19. What If

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What if Harry Potter did an indie chick flick? It would be an easygoing and entertaining affair. That’s what. Radcliffe and Kazan had great chemistry and were a normal and believable couple. I actually cared what happened to them unlike the other umpteen romantic comedies that have wasted my time.

20. Blended

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I told you that I was going to think outside the box. I said surprised or entertained me. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a Sandler movie. And this says a lot from a die hard fan. Hardly die hard BUT I’ve endured them all. Blended certainly isn’t perfect but it felt like a return of sorts. It was certainly a return for Drew Barrymore. The plot is stupid and some gags fall flat on their backside.

BUT when it was funny, it had me in stitches. The family dynamic was dealt with well. The handling with the grief issues was done nicely and was unexpected. I enjoyed it. There’s still hope for the Sandler. I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with something more. A good comedy. Hallelujah. Has the Mad Movie Ranter lost his marbles?

THE BEST OF ME REVIEW

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Not the best for me. Two stars for the two couples.

James Marsden (X Men), Michelle Monaghan (True Detective) and their “younger” counterparts do their best to uplift an incredibly tame and cheesy love story but . . . alas! To no avail.

Another film to be adapted from another Nicholas Sparks novel and hopefully the last.

A little harsh but if they are NOT going to try and do something different than why bother?

The Notebook and even the one with that couple that I can’t remember were so much better. Oh hang on, Endless Love.

It didn’t help that I had quips about Luke Bracey (G.I.Joe: Retaliation). Now despite being the same age as myself or I (Never get that right), he looked considerably older than Liana Liberato (If I Stay) AND James Marsden.

Bracey is supposed to be a younger Marsden. NOW Bracey is 6 foot something while James Marsden is a good head shorter. I know you shrink when you get older but come on! That’s when you’re in your 70s/80s not 40s. Even Liberato beared some similarities to Monaghan.

Anyway, rant over . . . On that little quip.

Liberato and Bracey have good chemistry as do their future counterparts M&M. BUT it’s all so dreadfully corny, predictable and at a whopping 132 minutes, I expected a little bit more drama to justify the length.

It’s certainly watchable. And I guess it helps to be part of a couple not a miserable cynic like yours truly. BUT after the nicey nicey opening hour with all the luvvy duvvy guff, I found myself looking at my watch. Liberato and Bracey will certainly be ones to watch for the future and making waves in the right places.

Sean Bridgers was delightfully sinister as Dawson’s (Bracey/Marsden) redneck father Tommy Cole and brought in a darker undertone and the much needed drama I seeked. He will certainly survive from this film relatively unscathed and made a memorable turn. But with that blasted 12A certificate hovering over this story, I knew the story couldn’t go as far as you could have. A shame.

BUT that’s not to say there were wasn’t some unexpected twists. Predicted but considering the fluffy tone that this film first portrayed, it was still unexpected without spoiling the film for those who are still tempted to give it a go.

The closing moments also fitted that heading appropriately. Dreadfully predictable but, none the less, grab your tissues if you’re one for the weepies.

Now I admit, I have had a teary eye in the odd rom drom BUT this made me cry for all the wrong reasons. It’s not all bad. Certainly watchable but there have been so many couple movies out this year worth seeing. I enjoyed Love, Rosie a lot more by comparison. This was lazy, slow and ended so predictably that I’m not surprised that it’s leaving the box office quicker than it entered.

There are some endearing moments, especially with the couples’ relationship with Gerald McRaney’s (Jericho) Tuck. McRaney was brilliant and really did justice to a character that shouldn’t have been as memorable. He also works well with Bracey which made their relationship a little more likeable. I haven’t read the novel so I cannot say whether the film has done it justice. BUT one thing, it most certainly hasn’t spurred me on to read it.

The cast do their best to uplift what really is a Sunday matinee TV movie that you’d expect to see on True Movies. It’s watchable BUT I ‘d already forgotten it as soon as I left the cinema.

2/5

WHAT IF REVIEW

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What if . . . ‘Arry Potter made a rom com about falling in love with a girl who is with somebody else? A surprisingly watchable and entertaining one, that’s what.

Daniel Radcliffe makes another impressive screen outing breaking away from those Hogwarts halls in this indie rom com. Now it’s hardly original. The obvious clichés are all there. The inevitable yearning, the awkward glances, that typical teen debate about whether men and women can be just friends without the sexual ambiguities hanging around them like a foul smell. The inevitable ending.

However, at it’s heart is also a well acted, if inevitably corny, rom com that is able to both make you laugh and care for the clueless couple. A feat in itself. You can’t help but watch so many of these regurgitated predictable romantic comedies and not actually care about the protagonists. Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) have great chemistry and manage to apply it to some likeable and well written characters. I think it really is down to your temperament of rom-coms. Normally I don’t have one.

So what’s it about? Wallace (Radcliffe), who is burned out from a string of failed relationships, forms an instant bond with Chantry (Kazan), who lives with her longtime boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall). Together, they puzzle out what it means if your best friend is also the love of your life (Bleurgh)

I went in ready to hate this. The trailers made it all seem so corny and schmaltzy but that only really happened in the final act. The first half was an easygoing insight into the couple’s brewing relationship that moved along at a steady enough pace. It very much focuses on the two characters but the chemistry and witty dialogue keeps it all on par. There is very little breaking apart from them except for the odd moment with the supporting characters to question their intentions.

The supporting cast are not a bad selection. Adam Driver (Inside Llewyn Davis) as Wallace’s promiscuous college room mate, Allan, is the main scene stealer with his odd look on life and bizarre sex advice. His celebratory quip after having sex will be quoted for months to come (Well for me anyway). Rafe Spall (Prometheus/Pete Versus Life) as the suspicious boyfriend with his impeccable accent made for some awkward encounters as well as a humourous kitchen accident scene. Mackenzie Davis (That Awkward Moment) as Allan’s partner didn’t play her part too badly. Her brash forwardness makes for some funny moments. However, I couldn’t help but feel that when she is teamed up with Driver; it all gets a little too OTT and hit and miss for me.

The kind of OTT stuff I was expecting from the get go. Megan Park (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) as the temptress spiced things up, desperate for a rebound lay and targeting the “available” Wallace. Predictable like I said but it’s a story we’ve either experienced or know somebody who has. I wish more was made of Wallace’s sister (Jemima Rooper – Hex/Kinky Boots) and nephew (Lucius Hoyos). It was a missed opportunity that could have added a little more depth to Wallace’s character rather than having him brood on a roof. You read that right. There was the odd moment but not enough for me.

It may be a predictable story but I went in expecting the worst and was relieved. It was entertaining, got the odd laugh. Inevitably it leads to the same schmaltzy result. The final act in which the pair are missing each other as they travel to different destinations was unnecessary and hammed up what was a normal and more realistic love story that is carried by two talented leads. Certainly one of the better ones I’ve seen. Might have to knock Delivery Man off the top 20 films of this year. Maybe.

3/5

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS REVIEW

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Maybe OK was what I will always say to these sort of films. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort bring to life a highly acclaimed bestseller making it an endearing drama and no doubt a teen weepie that will have people flooding to the cinema.

Now these sort of films never appeal to a cynic like myself but hey after all the films I assumed would be good, I went in open minded for a change and . . . not bad. Once I got over the fact that they are not Tris and Caleb Prior from the Divergent franchise, I could allow the pair to charm away. There is fantastic chemistry between the pair and their characters are very likeable. A topic like this is always difficult to convey and you can always imagine but never really know what these situations would be like.

Although the lingering subject of life and death is hovering above our young star crossed lovers, it is done with the right balance and generally in a light hearted and easy going fashion. It zips along with the odd plucking of the heart strings here and there. Elgort has proven that he will be one to watch. Finally awarded a big leading role, he has enough charisma and charm to pull it off. Woodley has proven her abilities before and plays her part to perfection. I fear the main battle with these films depends on how much you like the couple. This time around, you feel for them, you laugh, you cry with the inevitable lurking around the corner.

Nat Wolff provided the comic relief in Isaac, which I can see the irony in the name now. You can also feel for his frustrations and pain but his one liners and erratic behaviour helps break up the inevitable schmaltzy coming together of the loving couple. Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) plays the understanding mother part very well and there are some nice moments between her and Woodley. Not enough for me. The problem is that I always want to see the whole impact on the family, which is briefly looked at.

I will admit that that I haven’t read the book so I can’t make comparisons in that sense. One question *POSSIBLE SPOILER* was their excursion into Amsterdam in the book? I felt the excursion slowed down the film and although it made for some nice moments between Elgort and Woodley, it did drag a little bit for me and Willem Dafoe’s (Spiderman) hermit writer character was a little pointless and didn’t quite fit in the film for me. I understand he may have been a metaphor that everything is not always what you hope or expect but our leading characters are fully aware of that.

This is well acted and nicely done. To be honest, this follows the lines of Terms of Endearment and Steel Magnolias. If you love these sort of these films, then you will love this. I don’t think this will be splitting fans of the book but again that’s speculation. The way it was advertised, I expected this to be really sad and heartbreaking. Don’t get me wrong, the finale is well done and sad but it is just the story of two people who found each other in all the craziness and madness of dealing with terminal illness.

I guess I wanted a little more on the impacts and what happened next and to be honest, Terms of Endearment is still the best film that tackles this story for me but the cast are great. Shame about Sam Trammell (True Blood) whose father figure was quite passive and anyone could have played him. But it is still a well acted, easy going film that zips along but still brings the odd tear. If you’re a unromantic cynic, then firstly what are you doing here but if you’re a cynic that can be persuaded, it is still rewarding and not bad. 3.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks 52 out of 188!