AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR REVIEW

10 years, 18 films, was Infinity War worth all the hype?

It’s tough not to talk about such a box office phenomenon without discussing plot points. I will do my best not to but take this a kind heads up.

I know Thanos has demanded our silence but it’s been a month now. Come on.

No, I’m kidding. Not everybody can drop their busy schedules for a three hour movie sesh. But if you were, I would recommend this.

I love how the Russos made this surprisingly accessible for fans who may not have obsessively watched the entire Marvel backlog beforehand or ever (Sacrilege, I know).

Crucial plot points were covered for the non die-hards but you would be missing out on so much character depth, back stories and references if you haven’t dipped into the other Marvel movies.

It felt like all the other films had been gearing up for this moment.

As much as I griped about some of the earlier Marvel efforts (Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers Assemble, the Hulk reboots, Iron Man 2), I never faulted the characters; what they stood for, their journeys and their progression over the years.

I have to say that I was actually excited to finally see all these incredible characters unite against a common foe (and what a foe!).

Josh Brolin, take a bow. I couldn’t think of anybody better to take on the Purple Mountain. His vocal gravitas lifting the amazing visual effects. The detail on his expressions were impeccable. For me, one of the most memorable Marvel villains to date.

For a moment, I almost felt empathy for the tormented maniac. An engaging presence that chewed up every scene. You could almost understand his motives. The flashbacks providing a much needed depth with his relationship to Gamora (Zoe Saldana).

Even his minions delivered; Tom Vaughan-Lawlor was brilliant as Ebony Maw and a worthy adversary (most notably for Strange) and it took me half of the film with all that make up to realise that it was The Leftovers’ Carrie Coon playing the bloodthirsty Proxima Midnight (What a name!)

Surprisingly the opening sequence didn’t grab me. As much as it set the tone with Thanos claiming lives from the get go. It didn’t pack the emotional punch I hoped. Maybe because the lives involved were hardly a shocker.

However once Stark, Strange and Spidey united; my doubts were instantly extinguished.

I loved how IW had the perfect balance of humour, drama and action.

The fast paced set pieces, the stunning visuals, the quick witted one liners, the fun exchanges. 2 1/2 hours breezed over in a heart beat.

Mixing up all the characters made for so many brilliant encounters. The biggest highlight involving the unexpected teaming up of Thor, Rocket and Groot.

The Guardians gang almost stole the show from everybody. Drax and Mantis were fantastic: delivering some of the most quotable dialogues.

I think everybody had their moment to shine (The Cap’s Third Man entrance, Strange’s sorcery, any scene involving Thor). An impressive feat in itself considering how many characters were thrown into the mix.

The battle of Wakanda sequences were incredible! It almost (almost) rivalled the epic Helm’s Deep battle of LOTR (Nerd!). The animation, the intensity, riding every high and low.

Now don’t get me wrong, the film wasn’t perfect (Scandalous!). Ruffalo had already won me over as Banner/Hulk but he got on my nerves. More so because Hulk failed to turn up when the chips were down?!

I loved how the trailers lied. Manipulating the order of scenes and showing moments that weren’t necessarily in the movie. Some for the better, some for the worst.

After watching Banner embrace Hulk and appearing to resolve his inner turmoil in Thor: Ragnarok, I was a little annoyed that he was still very much unstable and out of control. Watching Ruffalo pull constipated expressions, groan and go a little green after a bad vindaloo was a little infuriating. Tut tut tut.

I’m sure you have heard whispers of characters being bumped off. I wouldn’t be commending a bold finale if risks weren’t taken but the removal of one particular character was abrupt and handled a little poorly for my liking *cough* Soul Stone *cough*

I had to laugh that Gwyneth Paltrow made a seemingly unnecessary cameo and yet both Ant Man and Hawkeye were out of the mix with just a passing comment to explain their absence. Really?

Even the special clip (that all Marvel fans endure endless credits for) was disappointing. Setting up the introduction of another Marvel character that we all knew was coming.

However, the gripping finale delivered a surprisingly dark turn and a very bold move from the Marvel team.

I can honestly say I didn’t see it coming. It’s hardly a spoiler to know that this is only Part One but I’m already pondering theories on how they can work Part Two and any other projects between the release dates.

BUT one thing has been established. It may have spanned 10 years but the Marvel movie-verse still has plenty in the tank (Especially right now) and I for one cannot wait for the next instalment.

3.5/5 (with room for a 4)*

*If some of the little niggles are addressed and rewarded in Part 2!

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JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE REVIEW

Welcome to the Jungle. We’ve got fun and Dwayne.

Four teenagers are sucked into a magical video game, and the only way they can escape is to work together to finish the game.

When I first heard the rumours circulating about a Jumanji sequel/reboot/whatever, I screamed to the movie gods . . . Why?! Do Hollywood hold nothing sacred?

Jumanji was one of my favourite childhood movies that featured the late (BUT always great) Robin Williams.

BUT then I saw the cast and thought, “This could work”. And it did.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect by any means BUT Jumanji: WTTJ offered big, dumb fun by the bucket load.

I liked how the team tried to make the premise their own. Taking it in a completely different direction BUT still throwing fitting nods to the 1995 classic (Classic? It’s only 95 mate).

The opening set the tone as the dusty relic of a board game realized that it was behind the times. Morphing instead into a vintage 80s video game console . . .

Yeahhhh BUT it worked. Pulling four dysfunctional youths into the abyss.

I loved how the different personalities took over the wrong avatars. Delivering the laughs straight off the bat.

The nerdy hypochondriac Spencer taking on the unit that is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The Rock knows how to deliver a popcorn movie. Embracing the ridiculousness of it all as his avatar has no weakness and endless abilities. The smolder . . . Seriously? Only the Brahma Bull could pull that one off.

The dumb arrogant high school jock taking over the miniscule servant Kevin Hart. An avatar riddled with an array of weaknesses (No pace, no stamina and . . . CAKE. That’s right. Cake). Brilliant.

You knew you were in for a treat when The Rock and Kevin Hart were involved. They work so well together and you couldn’t tell how much of the banter was part of the script or just off the cuff. Judging by the Rock’s face . . . A lot of improvisation was going on.

The shy academic nerd taking on the Lara Croft bad ass avatar (Karen Gillan). I know Gillan had a little backlash over her skimpy outfit BUT The Rock was poking fun at his physique. Plus the joke picked out some of the sillier aspects of early video games/imagery.

Gillan owned it. The only thing I could pick at her performance was not anything she did BUT her character’s fighting tactic. Dance fighting?

Beating people up to the sweet sounds of Big Mountain’s Baby I Love Your Way? The first sequence wasn’t too bad BUT the several that followed . . . Yeah, not so much.

However, her exchanges with Jack Black were fantastic. Especially when Black gave her lessons on how to attract a man. I was in stitches.

And despite how good everybody was . . . Jack Black, take a bow.

He stole the show as the photogenic selfie taking high school beau Bethany took over his overweight professor avatar. Even when he went to the toilet in the jungle with the lads, I was howling. The School of Rock star has been missed.

I don’t think this would have worked without the cast. Nick Jonas didn’t play too bad a part BUT his character was a little bit boring for me.

The limited lives threat gave it a little more edge as the gang had to adapt to their avatars fast! You die in the game, that’s it!

It was entertaining with enough thrills, spills and avatar kills. Seriously, I wasn’t joking about the CAKE thing.

The special effects and fun set pieces delivered enough ooohhs and aaahhhs.

The stampede sequence will never top the original. BUT it was still mental to watch (Even if it was a little disorienting and packed with some shoddy CGI). Bearing in mind, the orignal is now 23 years old (23! Now I feel old), the effects looked more dated in this one.

However . . .

Flight of the Conchords’ Rhys Darby was completely wasted as a virtual avatar.

And Bobby Cannavale as Van Pelt? Now you could have banked on the Boardwalk Empire maestro to inject some villainy to his sinister demeanour. BUT maybe this was a miscast?

His freaky warlock bugged me. No literally, what was the deal with all those bugs crawling around him and in his ears? *Shudders* Yikes.

We needed someone with the pantomine delivery of Jonathan Hyde. He had the right balance of mayhem. Crazy but cold blooded. The dynamic (That chemistry) between him and Alan was missed in this. Cannavale’s Pelt was too bland and generic. Shame.

  

My main issue was the pacing. It took a while to get going as we had to endure the build up and get a sense of the teens. Easygoing stuff BUT you couldn’t help BUT think, “When are they going to find the flippin’ game?”

When it was funny, it was hysterical. When it was action packed, I was riveted. BUT all the stuff in between lumbered the whole thing and got me a little fidgety.

BUT a great cast, top laughs and some mad fun made this one to watch for everybody.

Enjoy!

3/5

*NEW* A QUIET PLACE REVIEW *NEW*

Shhhhh— Shocking.

BUT for the right reasons?

A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.

A tight, taut little thriller.

Looks like Jim from The Office USA has a prosperous career in directing with his first foray into horror.

AQP reminded me very much of M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs BUT instead of alien beings with a water allergy attacking a planet predominantly made of water; we have blind blood thirsty creatures hunting down prey in rural America through the medium of sound.

A nail biting opener established the premise and set the tone. Gripping, tense and unsettling as the Abbott family foraged for supplies. The silence perfectly executed and (despite my grumblings about some of the silly giggly people in the cinema) effective.

It really complimented some of the “jumpy” bits (which there were many) and packed a punch! Krasinski leading us into a false sense of security at every corner. Only for a slight movement; a creaky step or a stupid toy putting you on tenterhooks . . .

The special effects on the “creatures” were impressive. The detail, most notably, on their intricate sonar abilities.

Marco Beltrami’s gripping score delivered when the characters reluctantly broke the sound barrier for survival.

BUT the real credit must go to the cast. Flawless. And essential as the film revolved primarily on the family unit. Naturally, there was great chemistry between husband/wife team John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. A couple doing their best to survive and protect their children.

Normally, I find that kids in horror films (Well, the majority of them) are a recipe for disaster BUT Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe were brilliant as the siblings. Most notably, Simmonds. She stole the show as Regan.

I have to commend Krasinski for hiring a deaf actress to play the role. I loved the father/daughter dynamic as Lee tried to correct his daughter’s impairment. Their fractious relationship provided an extra depth to the piece.

However, it wasn’t perfect. The pacing did test in places (Despite the 90 minute running length) with a little too much indulgence on the tip-toeing around for me.

And I couldn’t help BUT laugh at the fact that Evelyn and Lee would even considering bringing another child into this post-apocalyptic world; knowing that their area is surrounded by these things?!

BUT there wouldn’t have been much of a movie otherwise. And it wouldn’t have allowed for some of the most suspenseful moments of the film as Evelyn hid in a tub from said creature while in labour.

And I know that there’s nothing wrong with a little mystery BUT I wanted to know more about those creepy entities. It didn’t spoil anything by all means BUT I wanted more.

The finale brought it home and was brilliant. Even if I felt a little short changed with the outcome. BUT I couldn’t help BUT walk out of the cinema, impressed.

A gripping premise delivered by a talented and underrated cast.

A indie horror that delivered thrills and tension by the bucket load. Worth a watch.

3.5/5

*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

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