*NEW* DEATH NOTE (2017) REVIEW *NEW*

Bit of a bum note, more like.

Hardly worthy of death threats BUT yikes . . . It’s a bit of a mess.

High school student, Light Turner (Nat Wolff) discovers a mysterious notebook that has the power to kill anyone whose name is written within its pages and launches a secret crusade to rid the world of criminals.

Now, I’m not a hardcore fan. It has been a long time since I watched the anime series and I loved the 2006 live action Shusuke Kaneko movie. After laughing at the “Netflix Original” title, I went in fearing the worst.

The poor ratings and scathing reviews had put me off BIG TIME.

And for the first 30 minutes or so, I was . . . pleasantly surprised.

The hypnotic opening track (Australian Crawl’s Reckless), Margaret Qualley from The Leftovers (What?), Nat Wolff’s creepy pallor and bleach blond hair.

It didn’t mess about. There wasn’t a slow ominous build up. It got straight to business. If anything, it might have been a little rushed.

The iconic death God Ryuk had already made his introduction within 15 minutes! Willem Dafoe was perfectly cast.

As soon as his gravelly vocals pierced the speakers, there were goosebumps. I’ll admit it. The animation wasn’t too shabby. A creepier improvement if I don’t say so. BUT what do you think?

As much as I could feel for the teen’s angst about his mother’s death and his anger at the judicial system, I didn’t really like Turner. And that was the problem.

Wolff’s performance was a mixed bag. His crazy facial expressions and OTT reactions were too much.

I know they’re teenagers BUT really? This should have been so much darker. The death sequences were deliciously violent and gory BUT it felt like something out of Final Destination.

The premise was still intriguing. A book that can kill any name you put down.

Ridding the world of terrorists and dictators. Making the world a better place under the alias of “Kira”. The Japanese nods well and truly in flow.

BUT of course, there were rules. Rules that Ryuk conveniently decides to share at the worst possible moment.

I don’t know why there was a heavy 80s soundtrack BUT it worked.

It was good to see Eli from Boardwalk (Shea Whigham) in a bigger role. He nailed it as Light’s father. The vigilant cop desperate to put an end to Kira’s reign.

BUT it wasn’t long before I could see what everyone was complaining about.

“Okay, follow the rules. Your fingers are really huge”.

The humour was heavy handed and came off far too comical than it was supposed to. Unintentional or otherwise. Especially when Light shared his secret with his dream girl Mia (Qualley), “I have a death God”.

Wolff and Qualley had just enough chemistry to drudge through some of the hammier scenes BUT the dialogue was terrible.

Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) did his best as the crime solving candy chomping cyber sleuth ‘L’. A super intelligent wacko also hell bent on catching Kira. BUT it just didn’t work.

It’s funny if this was animated, I wouldn’t have batted an eye BUT seeing ‘L’ being sung to sleep by his Japanese aide, Watari (Paul Nakauchi) was too much.

The cat and mouse game was interesting enough BUT too much time was spent on ‘L’ and Stanfield’s acting wasn’t the best. It didn’t help that he was reduced to spewing fast-talking nonsense.

The pace surprisingly dragged when the story focused on ‘L’s origins. It took everything away from Light and reduced Ryuk to nothing. Dismal.

The longer the film went on, the sillier it got. The action set pieces and chase sequences were okay BUT it built everything up for a ridiculous and chaotic finale that didn’t make much sense.

With pressure mounting and the power of the Note taking over, it was only a matter of time before there was a rift between Light and Mia BUT their incessant squabbling got on my nerves. Even Qualley irritated the hell out of me.

And the twist, if you can call it that, was woeful and by the end, I didn’t care.

It was watchable enough and killed the time. BUT memorable? Meh. The original live action version was haunting and engrossing. It toyed with the moral and ethical implications of taking someone’s life.

This remake felt like a dumbed down version for the “ADHD generation”. Afraid to stick with a set tone and desperately throwing in any old guff to keep those pesky kids off their mobile phones.

No one goes out to make a bad movie and if director Adam Wingard has been receiving death threats for this than that needs to STOP.

I have seen so much worse. This wasn’t great BUT I think it warranted a little bit more than a 4/10 on the IMDb.

Started off so well BUT ended on a bum note.

2/5

P.S. Did any Heroes fans spot Masi Oka’s cameo? What was the deal with that Nakamura reference? Hmmm . . . .

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*NEW* OKJA REVIEW *NEW*

A bit more than OK, ja?

Meet Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn), a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named Okja.

Strange, charming, quirky. What did you expect from the guy who gave us The Host?

I was surprised to see a Bong Joon-ho flick on Netflix. I’m glad the Twitter poll recommended this.

The eclectic opener with Tilda Swinton’s (We Need to Talk About Kevin) brace ridden quirky corporate exec didn’t really give me high hopes.

Swinton doesn’t like to do normal, does she? BUT we wouldn’t have it any other way. The random statistics and animated PowerPoint presentations threw me into a mini-coma.

To cut a long story short, the world is overpopulated and running out of food. Cue the discovery of “super piglet” on a Chilean farm, a litter of little super piglets and a worldwide competition among farmers to grow the biggest pig.

Fast forward 10 years to a beautifully pastoral Korean forest setting. Darius Khondji’s cinematography was breathtaking.

The animation was very good. The detail on Okja was brilliant. A cross between a giant hippo and a elephant with the mannerisms of a dog.

Mija and Okja reminded me of characters from a live action Studio Ghibli animation. I loved the dynamic.

There was an easygoing feel to the piece as we watched the pair hunt and frolic in the woods. Establishing that their bond was more than just a farmer raising her produce.

It wasn’t long before the pair’s safe haven was disrupted by the emergence of the squeaky and highly flamboyant simpleton Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal – Donnie Darko). A fame-seeking animal loving TV host.

God knows what Gyllenhaal was smoking while taking on this role?! He was bloody mental and hilarious. A deluded hypocrite. Scene stealer in every frame.

Of course being “company property”, Okja must return to New York to claim her prize as “best pig” and face her impending fate. Throwing Mija into one mad journey.

Seo-Hyun Ahn was brilliant as the resilient Mija. It takes a lot for a child actor not to infuriate me BUT she played the role perfectly.

The Seoul street chase was a fantastically choreographed and entertaining sequence as Mija ran through alleyways and dived over highway bridges.

Things taking a highly comical turn when a group of animal activists decide to free Okja at the same time. The Animal Liberation Front were a great addition to the mix and featured a surprisingly talented supporting cast.

I couldn’t help but laugh as the gang tried to remain peaceful during Okja’s rescue mission. The friendliest highway robbery I’ve ever seen (“Please co-operate”).

Pointing a gun at the truck driver, demanding he put on his seat belt before ramming him off the road. Swiftly followed by a sincere apology. Desperate not to use violence by any means.

Steven Yuen (Glenn from Walking Dead!) and Paul Dano (Swiss Army Man) were excellent as K and Jay. Dano’s reaction at the speed of the Korean language to English as he asked to be translated was a particular highlight.

Lily Collins (Love, Rosie) did her best to hide those brows from the balaclava BUT I knew it was her before the big reveal.

Devon Bostick has come a long way from his Wimpy Kid days. His character Silver had so much potential BUT didn’t get enough screen time. Refusing to eat in order to leave the smallest carbon footprint.

I felt their characters got lost in the chaos. Shame. And that was kind of the problem; the pace lumbered things drastically (especially during the middle act) that I could feel myself fidgeting.

Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito was wasted in his minute role as Mirando’s underling.

I was happy to see Trainspotting’s Shirley Henderson feature. Moaning Myrtle just doesn’t get a break.

The second half certainly delivered a more rewarding affair BUT I didn’t expect the direction it took. I would have said that this was a kid’s film right up until Okja’s incarceration in a New York lab.

Bong Joon-ho brilliantly encapsulated the GM food crisis perfectly. Showing the brutal treatment of animals. I’m not a vegetarian BUT even I was left feeling queasy. Especially during the “natural non-forced breeding” process.

The gruelling underbelly of corporate control as Swinton’s Mirando tried to turn Mija and Okja’s bond into one big PR stunt to help change her company’s bad image.

I thought Snowpiercer was dreadful. The saving grace (Sorry, Chris Evans) being Tilda Swinton. I was getting disappointed at her lack of screen time. That was until the mad final act. She delivered everything I expected.

The closing minutes left food for thought making this a rewarding and charming little film (If a little long at the tooth) that delivered raw social commentary and mad humour.

A pleasant surprise.

3.5/5 (Just)

*NEW* WAR MACHINE REVIEW *NEW*

Not funny enough to be a satire and not hard hitting enough to be taken seriously.

A misfire on all fronts.

What drove Pitt to do this?

A successful, charismatic four-star general, Glenn McMahon (Brad Pitt) leaps in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by a journalist’s no-holds-barred exposé.

My reaction while watching this drab affair.

To describe Glenn McMahon, I would have to say that “he was a throwback to another era”.

A bit like the actor that’s playing him and the film in question.

I didn’t know anything about McMahon before approaching this and after watching War Machine, I certainly don’t want to. I don’t know whether that was down to Pitt’s performance. BUT it was a joke for all the wrong reasons.

His gruff voice, the retarded face pulling and that weird run? Jogging about the place like he had the sh*ts.

I’m sure it was supposed to be comical BUT it was hard to show empathy towards a complete simpleton. Was that the punch line?

The film focuses on the 2009 Afghan withdrawal with Big Glenn (or the Glennible) tasked as the man to end the war and bring it home.

Despite the overlong running length, it was surprisingly watchable as McMahon made his assessments. Scoot McNairy’s droning commentary delivered some insightful quips BUT it went on a bit.

Free reign over his command as long as it didn’t involve bringing in more troops. Therein lies the rub.

Desperate to make some sort of impact and constantly dictated to by office bureaucrats and civilian advisors; it wasn’t long before McMahon realised he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

The tone was dreadfully mismatched. The Men Who Stare At Goats meets Jarhead vibe didn’t really work.

For all the shocking statistics and political sniping, there wasn’t really much going on.

That’s not to say that there weren’t moments to be had. I did laugh when McMahon mistook two Muslims for praying when they were actually trying to install a BluRay player.

The hypocrisy was ridiculous when Glenn demanded to know why Afghan farmers were growing opiates instead of cotton and wheat.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised at the reasoning: “US cultivation funds will not support the production of a material that can be distributed in the world market and go in direct competition with the US. So we’re growing heroin instead”.

“People will vote for whoever their local squad tells them to in fear of having their heads chopped off”.

At one point, the man was literally left twiddling his thumbs for a month while he waited for the Afghan elections to finish. The irony even more bittersweet when the US bureaucrats were dissatisfied with the outcome and fixed another to find a more suitable candidate.

A bit like now, really?

I remember Topher Grace (That ‘70s Show) being a good actor. It’s a shame he keeps getting in films that don’t let him do that. Highly unmemorable. The same could be said for the majority of the supporting cast. Such a waste.

Sir Ben Kingsley was disappointing as President Karzai. He did his best with the material BUT it wasn’t enough.

Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) stood out as the disillusioned Corporal Billy Cole. His frustration at the troop’s increasingly vague objectives was spot on.

“We got what we wanted in the first six months. There’s no street parade waiting for you with this one”.

Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) played the shady government advisor Pat McKinnon well. The true orchestrator of this messy affair.

“The longer you stay, the worse it will be for us all. Please leave now”.

You could feel for McMahon’s frustration as he genuinely believed the manure he was shovelling. Receiving no “face time” with the President other than a passing handshake during a “Meet ‘n’ Greet”.

The man leaked his own report just to get the ball rolling. And even then he was short changed reinforcements by 10,000 men!

McMahon’s estranged relationship with his wife made for uncomfortable viewing. Equating the time they spent together to less than 30 days over the last 8 years. There was zero chemistry and killed the pace like a lead balloon.

It didn’t help that McMahon came across as such a tool.

His cross-examination in Berlin by a belligerent journalist (Tilda Swinton) was like wathcing a deer in headlights.

There may have been valid points BUT it was just one big rant aimed at an emotionally detached military figure.

I’m not sure whether that feeling of detachment was supposed to be the main theme of the piece BUT it was difficult for me to connect or care about the characters involved.

The closing attack on Helmand was dull and drawn out with the end result predictable and uninteresting.

Like the protagonist, War Machine felt lost in translation. I was left questioning what the filmmakers were were trying to do.

This would have been more hard hitting 10 years ago when we had that initial influx of Gulf war movies; Jarhead, In The Valley of Elah, The Hurt Locker.

Calling Obama’s administration weak and hypocritical when the man has already left office seemed a little pointless.

Watchable BUT I can’t say riveting or enlightening.

Despite some eye-opening encounters, this was still a disappointing misfire that failed to deliver enough hard-hitting drama or entertaining humour.

2.5/5

*NEW* THE SIEGE OF JADOTVILLE REVIEW *NEW*

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Gripping, shocking and a bloody good watch!

Irish Commandant Pat Quinlan (Jamie Dornan – Fifty Shades of Grey) leads a stand off with troops against French and Belgian Mercenaries in the Congo during the early 1960s.

How did this not get a better release? Well, at least this movie established one thing. Netflix are funding the right scripts.

Any one can film a true life event BUT that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be any good. Come on, we have the True Movies channel that says otherwise. There’s some real gems on there.

I was recommended this little war flick after my family were bored one evening and “borrowed” my Amazon Fire Stick. I’m glad they brought it to my attention.

It got straight to business throwing us right into the befuddling chaos with the Congo in dispute and heavy pressure from the USSR and USA forcing the UN to intervene.

UN ‘peacekeepers’ choosing Ireland as a neutral force to provide security to a dilapidated compound. Open for attack with only two exit points.

The first 30 minutes was slow burning BUT intriguing. We followed the backhanded deals between the UN Secretary General (Mikael Persbrandt) and Conor Cruise O’Brien (Mark Strong fetching a very bad wig).

The hypocrisy as the officials passed the buck. Ordering the clueless troops to protect important vantage points in a feeble bid to stop the ruthless and calculated Moise Tshombe (Danny Sapani).

It was good to see Sapani (Penny Dreadful) get a meatier role as the slimy general playing the officials off against each other.

Jamie Dornan was superb. At first, I wasn’t sure that his performance would be strong enough for the character BUT it worked.

A clever academic that can quote Rommel and Caesar with the drop of a hat BUT has never fought in a battle before. The troops just as unconvinced with their commandant as the audience.

I loved how SoJ didn’t mess about with the cliched build up that has tragically become the norm in war films of late.

We didn’t need a back story for every character. We cared for them and the situation that they had unwittingly stumbled upon. Soldiers merely following orders.

Outmanned, outgunned and out of time. I still couldn’t believe that this was a true story as the troops discovered their limited supplies, shoddy equipment and lack of coverage.

The tension as Quinlan encountered the French legionnaires in a rundown bar. Nail biting. Guillame Canet (Tell No One) was very good as the shady Rene Falques. A mercenary respectfully warning the Irishmen to stand down.

The verbal sparring as the pair shared a glass of Cognac was brilliant. Kevin Brodbin’s dialogue was fantastic; “Not many Frenchmen like German tacticians. It only took them two weeks to take over your entire country”.

150 vs. 15,000. It was a 13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi set up without the agonizing pace. The odds growing against them as they endured wave after devastating wave.

Emmanuelle Seigner (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly) was wasted in her role as Madame LaFontagne. Her character nothing more than a plot device. Confirming Quinlan’s suspicions that Jadotville was a vital mining area for minerals and uranium.

The action was frantic, fast paced and enthralling. I was hooked. The CGI and effects were pretty impressive for a limited budget.

“What’s it like getting shot? I wouldn’t recommend it”. I didn’t expect the humour as the lads tried to make sense of it all. Fantastic.

The only thing I could mark the film down for was that there were only several faces other than Dornan and the equally brilliant Jason O’Mara (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) that we actually stuck with. The rest were lost in the chaos.

BUT I was completely caught up in this. I wasn’t fidgeting or messing about on my phone. I was rooting for them from the get go.

I was even yelling at the legionnaires as they cheated at every obstacle. Faking a ceasefire to pick up the wounded and launch mortar attacks!

Mark Strong was excellent as O’Brien. Sitting on the sidelines and churning out all sorts of rubbish to Quinlan in desperation as the plan failed. Telling him to hold his ground. Despicable.

The finale was unbelievable and emotional as our heroes returned to an empty airfield. No one to welcome them home. Branded cowards in a battle they should never have had to fight.

It took 40 years for the ‘A’ Company to receive their medals of honour. Shocking. The credits and figures really hit home.

I cannot praise this film enough. Worthy of your time. This might even creep into my top war films list.

If you haven’t got Netflix, get it, steal it and watch this. If you have, why aren’t you watching it?

4/5