*NEW* MOANA REVIEW *NEW*

Easygoing fun.

In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui (The Rock) reaches Moana’s (Auli’i Cravalho) island, she answers the Ocean’s call to seek out the Demigod to set things right.

Typical Disney. But it still hit the spot.

The animation was stunning. Beautiful to look at. I just wanted to dive into those clear blue waves. Yes, I know they weren’t real! BUT that’s how good the visual effects were.

The opening song numbers weren’t too bad. They set up the story and established Moana’s background perfectly.

Torn between exploring the world and fulfilling her duties as the new Chief of her people.

The running theme of identity and personal being was an intriguing one as the deviant Moana opposed her father’s numerous attempts to keep her on the island.

The Hawaiian folk lore and supernatural guff was entertaining enough. The cheesy singing and mad journey was fun.

BUT I was a little disappointed with the songs. They weren’t really that memorable.

It only takes somebody at work to say, “Let’s get down to business” and I have to fight the urge NOT to burst into the Mulan jam (Go on, confess. How many of you are right now?)

No?

Don’t get me wrong, they were easy listening gems and Cravalho has a lovely voice BUT I could only remember two tracks off the top of my head while writing this.

There was certainly plenty of humour and heart. A gag involving tweeting drew a guilty grin from me.

A predictable journey lifted with some fantastic supporting characters from Hei Hei, the special chicken to . . .

The Rock. My God. He stole the show as Maui. The guy is a demi-God. Let alone voicing one.

They must have had him in mind from the get go as the tattoo woven, bicep flexing, eyebrow raising (They even included the Brahma Bull’s brows) machismo.

His conflicted character had me in stitches. I loved his little tattoo. A Jiminy Cricket running around all over his body to let the big guy know when he’s making a big mistake. Brilliant.

And who knew the big guy could carry a tune?

Any WWE fan will know the Rock can sing.

I didn’t think I’d throw that into a review any time soon. You’re welcome. See what I did there?

Just when I thought the pace was beginning to lull and Moana was thrown into the water by Maui for the umpteenth time, thankfully there was a new challenge or foe to keep things going.

I didn’t expect Flight of the Conchord’s Jermaine Clement to appear in this. Applying his David Bowie-esque gravitas to the troubling Tamatoa.

Shiny, shiny! He was hilarious as the conniving crab.

As much as I was entertained, for all the hype, Moana just didn’t stand out.

The journey was all too predictable and normally I’m one for the ride NOT the destination BUT it just didn’t quite hit those highs for me like her Disney predecessors.

Moana was a resilient and resourceful heroine BUT her character seemed to get a little lost in the ever-growing Disney universe.

BUT this is coming from a cynical man reaching his thirties so make of that what you will.

It killed the time, the animation was amazing and the True Grit dynamic between Moana and Maui was a nice touch.

So despite my grumblings, this was still a charming little film that Disney fans will lap up a treat.

3/5

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*NEW* EXPOSED REVIEW *NEW*

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Some secrets are better left buried. A bit like this film, really.

Absolutely bloody dreadful.

A police detective (Keanu Reeves) investigates the truth behind his partner’s death. The mysterious case reveals disturbing police corruption and a dangerous secret involving an unlikely young woman (Ana de Armas).

Thank God, Reeves has got John Wick to fall on because this coma-inducing effort would have been a career killer.

Nice try, Sky Movies. To celebrate the bad ass action man’s new JW release, Sky have decided to feature a selection of Reeves’ anthology. I found this little dud among the Matrix and Wick efforts. My God, I wish I hadn’t.

If you hadn’t heard of this film, then . . . GOOD. You’re one of the lucky ones. If you were thinking of giving it a go, I would strongly advise against it.

Maybe Armas and Reeves shouldn’t work together on a project again. Fool me once, Eli Roth’s horrendous Knock Knock. Fool me twice, this monstrosity.

In the words of George Dubya, “Fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again”.

The opening was creepy enough as Armas loitered around an empty subway. An air of unease uncomfortably set. The Shining-esque tunnels. The strange visions. A shame that momentum couldn’t stick.

I haven’t seen something so dull and disjointed in a long time. I expected a slow burning supernatural thriller BUT was rewarded (I say rewarded) with a questionable mess that never really got going.

The alluring Armas may have been easy on the eye (What?) and she did her best with the part BUT it just didn’t work. If it wasn’t for the strange dreams and that crazy albino woman, I would have switched off from the get go.

What drove Keanu to do this? He was laughable. His stone cold pallor and incessant mumbling did nothing for his character. A disgruntled detective out on the trail to avenge his murdered partner.

His story line felt it should have been in another movie altogether. It ran completely separate to Isabel’s story. They didn’t even cross paths until the very last frame. And by then, you wondered why he was in it in the first place?

It was so boring, cliched and full of plot holes. His investigation consisted of grunting, slapping some people about and getting jiggy with his partner’s grieving widow (Mira Sorvino – Mimic).

Sorvino was terrible. Her character’s unhinged and volatile behaviour made her extremely unlikeable and really bloody annoying. She brought nothing to the mix.

Big Daddy Kane was weak as the slimy Jonathan ‘Black’ Jones. He swaggered around, bumping people off that had nothing to do with Reeve’s investigation or Isabel.

There was a bizarre and surprisingly violent encounter between Jones and Isabel’s brother-in-law. BUT was there any explanation? Any relevance to what was going on? Nope.

And that was the main problem. In terms of story telling, there wasn’t any. Gee Malik Linton just seemed to throw in any old thing, hoping it would stick and make some sort of movie.

Just question after question with no answers. It just got stranger and more disjointed as it slowly crawled (Bearing in mind, it’s only 98 minutes long) to its abysmal finale.

Isabel immaculately conceived a baby. Weird considering her fella was in the army and hadn’t been back on leave in over a year. The whole religious connotation to the Virgin Mary came off so hammy that even her family weren’t buying it!

Reeves just slept walk through this film, blurting some school boy Spanish here and grunting there. There was one point I just burst out laughing.

It was supposed to be Galban hitting an all time low. Bottom of the barrel as he called his son late at night just for someone to talk to.

What does he do after this failed attempt at emotional bonding? He slaps himself repeatedly with the phone, of course. I wish I could find a gif for it.

And considering the synopsis suggested corruption. I didn’t see any in this film. Christopher MacDonald (Happy Gilmore) was completely wasted in the generic role of Lieutenant Galway. Regurgitating the same old spiel, “Drop the investigation”. I really wish Galban had taken his advice.

The last 10 minutes finally explained those bizarre visions (which did surprise me). I will admit I didn’t see the twist (I say twist) coming. A twist that ultimately led to a highly unsavoury rape scene. Unsettling, to say the last.

BUT once I got that over initial and shocking scene, the film then capsized even further as everything came to a befuddling and dismal ending.

I actually couldn’t care by the time the credits rolled and will spend no more time after this review looking into it.

I urge you to do the same. Awful. AVOID. Unless you really, and I mean REALLY, have nothing better to do.

1.5/5

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 REVIEW

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Spook me once, shame on you. Spook me twice, shame on me. Spook me thr- If you can do that, then you’re doing something right.

They still got it! The third (Well, first) installment of the relentless Insidious franchise haunts the silver screen yet again. And let’s just say, I wasn’t screaming for my money back.

A prequel set before the haunting of the Lambert family that reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl (Stefanie Scott) who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity.

If you had asked if there were any decent horror films about these days? Insidious and The Conjuring would have probably been the only examples my brain could muster. Okay maybe Paranormal Activity (The original and the third at a push).

I went in to the first Insidious expecting nothing after so many demonic duds and was rewarded with nail biting tension, jumps, a story and characters I actually gave two monkeys about. Understandably it fared well. Bringing back the old school haunted house horror genre with a bang!

I liked how writer/director Leigh Whannell put a fresh spin on the whole thing by incorporating the idea of the paranormal dimensions and The Further. It really stood out for me even when the scares may have been a little lacklustre. Inevitably a sequel was soon green-lit and a franchise was born.

I won’t spoil too much for those who haven’t seen the other films or Annabelle (The less we say about that, the better. The only disappointment of Whannell’s creepy collection). If anything, this would probably be the best one to start with.

Recurring characters and little references may spoil the experience a little but you can fill the blanks quite easily. BUT the opening of Insidious 3 didn’t really get things going and I could feel my hopes wading fast. NOT even the opening score that used to scare the living daylights out of me did anything. It seemed like someone had forgot to turn the volume on. Normally, I dread the opening titles. Can’t remember. Let’s remind you . . .

A weak Lin Shaye performing a reading with Scott’s peppy acting student was cliched and slow. Not a great start. We had to watch minutes tick by as Scott spoke about her family and the recent passing of her mother. It was all by the book and predictable.

The broken family dynamic with Delmot Mulroney’s dreary (No seriously. Was he on something?) dad unable to cope was unintentionally comical. Scott’s flirty exchanges with the boy next door. Sigh. Boring. Thankfully Whannell didn’t bother focusing on that love angle at all. A relief.

BUT then strange things began to happen. Weird figures waving (No seriously. What was the deal with the waving?) Disappearing and reappearing. AND out of nowhere. BAM! One nasty accident. The film found it’s form. And I was an anxious mess.

Before I knew it, the jumps flew in thick and fast. The tension and suspense may have been predictable but it still got my heart racing. The sly hand across face to wipe hair that wasn’t there. Just in case something lashed out from under the bed or something.

Scott played the role well and managed to make a memorable turn. It was just a shame that her character was so cliched and when she had the leg cast, there wasn’t much she could do. If anything, this wasn’t really her story.

It was the story of one of my favourite characters in the franchise, Lin Shaye’s medium Elise Rainier. As soon as she appeared in the first Insidious, I was intrigued. A well written character that had an interesting and mysterious back story.

Whannell finally shows us that very back story that the previous two merely hinted at. He also creates a new creepy demon to give people sleepless nights with The Man Who Couldn’t Breathe (Michael Reid MacKay). The demon that has taken a shine to Scott’s Quinn.

Despite a slumbering start, Insidious Chapter 3 did something that other horror films have failed to do. Keep me interested. It was tense, suspenseful and creepy. You could argue the build up was predictable. The figures in the curtains. The faint little voices. The OTT and incredibly loud movie score making you tremble if the scare didn’t.

BUT believe me there were a quite few scares that got me. Normally I can sit there and deliver a countdown before a jumpy bit emerges. Not this time. It’s good when you fear that all the best bits have been flogged in the trailer. Only to be proved wrong in the first 30 minutes.

For Insidious fans, we finally understand Rainier’s reluctance to help the Lambert family from the earlier films (No, get this right. Later films). If anything, you have more respect for her. Either that or you’ll think she’s even more bonkers for venturing into the Further again.

Tom Fitzpatrick’s The Bride in Black makes a very unwelcome return. Only because the b*stard kept making me jump. No seriously, he made me jump twice doing the exact same thing. And be warned a certain Darth Maul looking like demon does make a surprise appearance.

The only problem with The Bride in Black was that the more he appeared, the funnier it got. An encounter with Rainier should have a pivotal moment but it came off like something out of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. I would show the clip BUT the horror, the horror!

And of course, we get to see how Rainier got together with Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). Their presence did lighten things up but didn’t spoil anything. To be honest, the film was strong enough without them but it was nice for Whannell to make everything come full circle.

The pace may have been patchy. The opening a little slow. More could have been made from Rainier’s past. BUT once it got going, I was one happy horror fan. And I felt the film got stronger like it’s demented host as it drew to it’s frantic (and slightly corny) close. I actually preferred this outing to Insidious Chapter 2.

And you know what? I can’t wait for another spooky encounter.

3/5

SEVENTH SON REVIEW

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Not as you bad as you think. Or just as bad depending on your outlook.

Okay, it’s not great. BUT . . .

It killed the time, zipped along, didn’t mess about and knew exactly what it was. A big, dumb, action packed supernatural blockbuster.

Seventh Son is very much in the same vein as Van Helsing and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Ridiculously stupid but entertaining at least.

So what’s this one about? Young Thomas (Ben Barnes) is apprenticed to the local Spook (Jeff Bridges) to learn to fight evil spirits. His first great challenge comes when the powerful Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) escapes her confinement while the Spook is away.

From the OTT opening music score, I instantly thought of the classic monster movies.

Not long before you’ve sat down in your seats, you’re soon jumping out of them as an imprisoned dragon breaks free to unleash mayhem.

Smaug got nothing on this one. However, the dragon soon transforms into a vamped up femme fatale. In the form of Julianne Moore.

Moore went completely against type and proved she can play the seductive vamp role well. (What?)

She camped it up and stole every scene. You could tell she was having fun.

BUT Jeff Bridges? Face palm. What on Earth is he playing at?

The reunion of The Dude and Maude Lebowski may have excited the movie nerd in me BUT it’s just a shame that Bridge’s character was so terrible.

He just about pulled off the no-nonsense embittered mentor with a terrible accent in RIPD. But he should have known not to pull the same trick twice.

I had no idea what accent he was trying to do. It was hysterical for all the wrong reasons. Half the time, I couldn’t understand him. The other half I couldn’t care.

Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) was quite a charismatic lead. Even if his character was a little bland.

Luckily the chemistry he had with Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) sparked a bit more life into him.

There wasn’t enough of Vikander. And no! Not because I have a little crush on her. I felt that with Barnes, they made a good couple. Barnes and Bridges, on the other hand? No.

She was feisty and not too shabby to look at either 😉

The special effects were actually pretty good. Unfortunately, I saw the 2D version. A decision I instantly regretted. You could pick out several moments that would have been great to see in 3D.

The plot was pretty naff and full of plot holes. I could jot down the amount of questions; Why the seventh of the seventh son? What was the purpose of John DeSantis’ (The 13th Warrior) Tusk? Why did he have tusks? Why was he indebted to the Spook? How did he keep popping up when the Spook hadn’t told him where they were?

Little niggles, you know.

I wasn’t bored and certainly couldn’t knock Seventh Son for pace. It zipped along, and if I’m honest, a little too rapidly. The story was always going to the same old predictable guff. Young man sent on a quest and enduring love, loss and blah, blah, blah but they could have allowed a little more time on certain characters.

Most notably, Olivia Williams’ Mam Ward. Her forced mother/son relationship could have been a little more meaningful and interesting if they had allowed a revelation to develop. BUT instead, they focus on the monsters and the fight sequences.

Don’t get me wrong. Fun and violent they may be. It doesn’t help when you don’t really care about the characters. Mam Ward reveals something about her character halfway through the film that could have added something BUT instead she is pushed further into the background until she is no more.

A missed opportunity.

Kit Harrington. That’s right. Jon Snow. Had the easiest cameo going. I couldn’t believe he was in this. They must have grabbed him while filming Game of Thrones. His role was nothing more than a plot device to show how relentless Mother Malkin is.

Djimon Hounsou is reduced to nothing more than another angry servant. Pretty much the same character from Guardians of the Galaxy. Just an irate troll this time.

Also, why was everyone speaking with American accents? Especially when the majority of the cast were English or Dutch? But that’s just a continuity quip. Another niggle, that’s all.

It was hammy and OTT but gained points for fun.

It had the odd chuckle, zipped along and kept me quiet. However, a lot more points were lost for consistency, plot holes and direction.

The ending wrapped up far too quickly and was surprisingly open. With a faint hint of another?

I would be intrigued and if (A BIG IF) the gang were to return, they would need a lot of work. I enjoyed Van Helsing a lot more and we never got a sequel for that. So, don’t hold up your hopes.

This is definitely a teen fantasy epic if ever there was one. BUT we have had far too many. And even though they were flawed messes, they were still a little more memorable than this, I’m afraid.

BUT give it a go if you want a big silly creature feature to kill 90 minutes. BUT Jeff Bridges, come on man. You’re the Dude! Sort it out.

2.5/5

THE WORST FILMS OF 2014 – PART TWO

Did you walk out of a film feeling angry, disappointed, baffled, confused?

Did you walk out of a film for that matter?

Did you sit in your car (or at home) reeling? Questioning, debating, pondering how on Earth it even got through the pitching process?

Then, welcome.

I think I’ve already compiled my worst films of 2015 which doesn’t bode well for the year that lies ahead.

BUT let’s (finally) review the worst films of 2014!

My criteria; Basically films that destroyed all excitement and anticipation or failed to deliver anything (Acting, talent, story, suspense, a movie).

Films that made me cry a little, scream with RAGE or just say, “I don’t think I’m going to bother anymore” . . . With the cinema (Woah, let’s not get too down now).

So I’ve already provided PART ONE from 20-11. NOW, it’s finally time for PART TWO with 10 – 1

SCALE: 10 DISAPPOINTED! – 1 WTF!

I’ll stick a few comments with each crappy film title accordingly. Enjoy . . . OR NOT. In fact, you won’t with these 😦

 

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10. WALKING WITH DINOSAURS: THE 3D MOVIE

I know, it’s a kid’s movie. BUT the dino facts were so patronising and stupid that it put me in a rage! I mean, come on! Kids can read. BUT the slow TRI-CER-A-T-OPS pronunciation was infuriating.

Plus they interrupted any interesting development in the dull by the numbers story line. The effects were good BUT the 3D? What 3D?

Not even John Lequizamo’s vocal work could save the day. In fact he annoyed the hell out of me. A talking crow narrating the history of the dinosaurs to a family?

LOGIC?! It just didn’t help the main character grated against me and the story was so predictable and corny that you lost interest.

The purpose of a family movie is to appeal . . . to a family. I don’t even think the little ‘uns would be fussed about watching this one.

Go watch the vastly superior award winning BBC documentary series instead!

 

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9. THE HARRY HILL MOVIE

Harry Hill making a movie? Any good? There’s only one way to find out?

NO! Hill tries to incorporate his TV Burp format to the big screen with a silly premise about taking his ill hamster to Blackpool.

Johnny Vegas does his best to get a chuckle as Abu the hamster. Abu? Wait. Isn’t that the name of another furry sidekick? Hmmm . . .

It was a shame with the talent at Hill’s disposal. Julie Walters, Matt Lucas, Jim Broadbent . . . Will from Inbetweeners.

For every good gag, Hill manages to balance it with a dozen duds.

It’s surreal, stupid and a mess to boot. I felt like I was on something watching it. Maybe I should have to try and understand how Hill thought this would be entertaining.

 

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8. DEVIL’S DUE

Another regurgitated, predictable, lazy, teen horror movie that desperately attempts to reap from the Paranormal Activity hype.

Paranormal Activity was a treat, an actual creepy, tension builder, that recreated and improved what the overrated handy-cam trend setter The Blair Witch Project set out.

A couple go on an exotic Brazilian honeymoon. They get lost. Get drunk. Suspicious taxi driver recommends strange place. Takes them before they can say, “Wait a minute”. And that last drink, oh that inevitable last drink. Instead of passing out on the bathroom floor, poor Sam gets impregnated by a Satanic cult.

The main issue is that the writers and producers either have never seen Rosemary’s Baby and inadvertently delivered a poor modern day rehash of it or they knew what they were doing which is even more tragic.

However, too many movies have popped their ugly heads out from this craze and I pray that this be the last but unfortunately the true horror is that it won’t be. (Just keep scrolling)

 

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7. THE LAST DAYS ON MARS

The . . . last film they should do about Mars. Oh my days. Shambolic. The pain endured watching this space turd was like having a xenomorph burst out of my chest and that still would have been more entertaining than this drivel.

Slow, tension less, shoddily acted, more holes than a sponge. This film should be jettisoned into space. Okay, rant over. Better? Better.

It is such a shame that an underrated cast have the opportunity to shine in a perfect B movie-esque vehicle and miss at every angle.

They could have done a shot for shot remake of Alien and they still would have messed it up.

If it wasn’t for the fact it was funded by the BFI and Irish Film Board, this definitely wouldn’t have made it to the big screen and rightly so. The fact it only featured at my cinema for five days says it all.

Also the film is called Last Days on Mars and yet when we join them, they are 19 hours away from going home so surely THE LAST DAY ON MARS. Couldn’t even get the title right.

 

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6. NATIVITY 3: DUDE WHERE’S MY DONKEY?!

Ho, ho, ho – horrible!

From the moment the first badly mimed, badly choreographed and terribly out of sync flash mob started busting shapes, I knew I was in for it. And that was just from the adults. The kids hadn’t even started yet.

Just because it was Christmas that doesn’t mean you can slap any old thing together and expect people to pay and see it. It was lazy, unfunny and poor. At a push, worth taking the little ‘uns if they are aged up to 5 tops.

I’m sure it was fun for everyone who filmed it. It’s just a shame they couldn’t convey that for everybody else.

I didn’t get me in the Christmas spirit but it certainly got reaching for the ones in my cupboard. Should be Dude, Where’s My Money?

 

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5. TRANSCENDENCE

Transcen-dunce or dense. A mind numbingly drab affair of a concept that has just enough meat to be a generic TV movie you’d expect to see on late night SyFy.

You know you’re onto a loser when the opening five minutes pretty much tells you what to expect and an established cast sleepwalk their lines and fail to make an impression.

It just proves that a little thing called story, along with some others called character, plot and interest still count.

Sleep walking performances, along with a by the numbers story line, relying on the popularity of familiar actors does not a good or profitable movie make.

I hope the memory of viewing this film will transcend, evaporating like the little nano-bots into nothingness. Avoid or upload at your own peril.

 

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4. UNDER THE SKIN

Under the skin? More like grating against my skin. What the hell did I just watch? Now imagine Species. Replace Natasha Henstridge with the even more alluring Scarlett Johansson. Set it in a grittier, murkier Scottish backdrop and bang on, you have . . . something worse than Species.

In fact just watch Species or the even more dire sequels to this drivel.

ScarJo plays a flirty alien that feasts on weak, shallow, lonely Scottish men. How could this be so bad? How can the man who brought us Sexy Beast produce this?

I mean he did do the oddly bizarre Birth. You know Birth? Nicole Kidman and her husband who is reincarnated as a 10 year old? Oh, that Birth, yeah.

 

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3. INTO THE STORM

Where to begin? The insufferable shaky handheld camera work? The cheesy Day After Tomorrow guff that managed to be more vomit inducing than the Day After Tomorrow?

The redneck tornado chasers? Richard Armitage getting his arse sucked off by a twister? Well, it bloody looked like he was.

This just made me want to walk out of the screen. Go to the nearest store that had the Twister DVD. Go back to the projectionist and tell them to put that on instead.

It was cringe-inducing bilge. I have never laughed so much. This was a farce. I have seen B-movies on SyFy that have contained better story lines and characters than this.

 

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2. AS ABOVE SO BELOW

As I watched, the more it blowed. Now childish sulky comments aside. Another found footage “horror” film graces the big screen with cheap scares, poorly acted, badly written characters and a laughable premise.

There is no tension. Random characters get bumped off left, right and centre without any background, interest or concern. Suspense. Naff all.

Loud noises and screams may make me jump out of my seat but what do you expect when the story has put me into a coma, near enough.

Feldman’s character with a dark past who constantly keeps reiterating that he will not go down into the catacombs; inevitably gets pushed down into the cave and what is his big secret?

He’s CLAUSTROPHOBIC! Why didn’t he say that in the first place? Idiot. Oh my God, it felt like something out of a comedy sketch.

 

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1. AND THE AWARD FOR WORST FILM OF 2014 GOES TO . . .

THE PYRAMID

This film should be buried beneath a pyramid.

You know you’re onto a loser when the saving grace is Jay from The Inbetweeners.

What a load of s#@! The demon bared a striking resemblance to those devil dog things from the live action Scooby Doo reboot. The one with Matthew Lillard as Shaggy.

It took half the film before they even got into the flipping thing. The ending was abrupt and predictable after all that endurance with the shoddy, shaky camera work.

Seriously, these found footage films need to STOP. It was too dark to see anything. Half of the time you get an elbow or a nostril. Come on, we’re in the Go Pro age guys!

Mindless exposition about unoriginal premises that have been done to death with lifeless characters that bicker through predictable and unscary scenarios are not acceptable.

 

THE BOOK OF LIFE REVIEW

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There’s life in the animation. Shame there isn’t any in the story.

Definitely one for the little ‘uns but adults may find themselves fidgeting. Fidgeting towards the exit door.

Brought to you by Guillermo Del Toro. Meaning; He has nothing to do with it. Other than having a production credit.

The honours go to animation director Jorge R. Gutierrez.

So what’s it all about? Manolo (Diego Luna) is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart (Awww . . . Yuck). Before choosing which path to follow, he embarks on an incredible adventure that spans three fantastical worlds where he must face his greatest fears.

3D is not essential. It certainly would have made the animation more prominent but not a must.

It’s all a little slow to start with. An elongated subplot with a tour guide (Christina Applegate) that introduces the love triangle was all a little unnecessary. The boring spiel of a group of detention kids forced to go on a museum tour just broke up the real story. It felt like a lazy plot device just to explain why the characters are made of wood.

The flicking back and forth may have allowed the detention kids to deliver some funny one liners but the end result could be seen a mile away. Dreadfully corny.

The animated worlds are nearly worth the ticket price alone. Nearly. Especially with the Land of the Remembered. The colours, the detail. Breathtaking.

The love story very much focuses on three friends; Manolo (Luna), Joaquin (Channing Tatum) and Maria (Zoe Saldana). The cast at Gutierrez’s disposal is fantastic. Diego Luna doesn’t do a bad job but his singing leaves a little to be desired.

Some of the songs that he covers sound a little flat i.e. Mumford and Sons – I Will Wait but his cover of Radiohead’s Creep was an unexpected surprise. To be honest, Luna seemed to grasp and sing the songs made for the movie better than the covers.

Tatum was brilliant. If anyone can play a deluded chughead, it would be him. Saldana does her best but her character is so bland and unmemorable. Merely the fire to spurn the contender’s passion.

The whole “love wager” between the rulers of the Lands of the Forgotten (Xibalba – Ron Perlman) and Remembered (La Muerte – Kate Del Castillo) was a little corny and didn’t really get as dark or as interesting as it could have been. Betting on which man Maria will fall for was done so lightly that any real conflict or tension is quickly disposed of.

Whoever lost would be forced to rule of the Land of the Forgotten – a desolate dull landscape whether the wandering spirits are left to disparate. You get an indication of what tone to expect by the fact the tour guide describes how Xibalba is made of tar and all “the icky stuff of the world”. Yeah . . . it’s that sort of film.

I understand it’s a children’s film but there was a moment in how Manolo crosses over to the Land of the Remembered that suggested something a little more macabre. I was hoping it might sneak into the Nightmare Before Christmas/Coraline territory but it’s all dealt with a little too cheesily and surprisingly quick.

So pace certainly wasn’t an issue. Something I always complain about. I couldn’t believe how many stars popped up in this. (Well, their voices). Hector Elizondo, Danny Trejo, Placido Domingo, Cheech Marin and . . . Ice Cube.

Ice Cube surprised me the most. The others I knew would be up for a laugh but it made a change to hear a different tone in Cube’s voice. His Candle Maker character looked strangely a lot like Zeus from Disney’s Hercules. Ron Perlman. I should have known he would pop in a Del Toro (produced) pic. He was delightfully OTT as Xibalba. A proper panto villain in this supernatural pantomine.

The gags are little hit and miss. The overenthusiastic singing nuns were incredibly irritating. But where one lot were irritating, another group were . . . really irritating. No, more mildly entertaining. The Mariachi band (led by Marin) brought the odd giggle, especially with their cover of Rod Stewart’s Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?

It zips along, brings a few chuckles but despite it’s beautiful animation; the characters are dreadfully cliched and the story is oh so predictable. There’s enough to keep the little ‘uns occupied for 90 minutes but the adults might be caught kicking the seats.

2.5/5

*THROWBACK REVIEW* A NEW YORK WINTER’S TALE

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An unexpected watch. Went in to the screen (not literally) expecting the usual luvvy duvvy guff (my terminology for romance stuff), but came out surprised. A well-acted love story that is as different as it is strange. Cudos for the concept but not so much for its execution. Great chemistry from a great cast shies away from the numerous plot holes. However, I would say give it a go. One that doesn’t deserve the backlash it received.

At its core without spoiling too much is the story of thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) who fights to keep a dying girl’s (the beautiful Jessica Brown-Findlay from Downton Abbey) hope alive in a battle against a devilish villain, the scarfaced Pearly Soames (a sinister Russell Crowe). However, what ensues is quite different, actually. Their love unwittingly becomes a game between hidden angels and demons. I kid you not. A supernatural love fantasy that spans a century . . . almost.

Not what I expected at all from the trailers. I was going in for a typical by the numbers old fashioned period piece. The opening hooked me from the get go. We follow an amnesiac Farrell in the present day New York attempting to piece together his identity and his past. It all flicks back and forth and has enough questions and intrigue to keep me quiet.

Once the story sets itself in 1916 and the supernatural elements kick in, it gets even crazier. It all settles down a little too comfortably when Farrell and Findlay first meet, with the pace slackening. The usual love at first sight guff. The chemistry between Findlay and Farrell is brilliant. They make such a likeable couple that can get away with some of the more cringey one liners.

Crowe plays the baddie role to perfection. But for even with his Bond villain scar face, you can’t help but feel his role is being wasted. Reduced to merely plotting, making deals with fallen angels and demanding approval from his superior, The Judge (ol’ Big Horns himself. That’s right. The Devil). Cue an unexpected cameo that brought a smile. I would love to tell you. But this a story all about how . . .

I don’t want to talk about the story too much as I do want people to see this.

Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography certainly made the film worth looking at. The performances are brilliant with a massive ensemble; William Hurt (Lost in Space/Damages), Jennifer Connolly (Labyrinth/Blood Diamond), Matt Bomer (White Collar/Glee) and Scott Grimes (ER/Band of Brothers) in a blink and you’ll miss it role.

Now I understand that the film was adapted from a Mark Helprin novel. Unfortunately I will admit that I haven’t read it. This film has certainly peaked my interest. But that is mainly because despite its attributes and every supernatural twist or turn, a bigger plot hole popped its ugly head. Without being too spoilerific, why was Farrell Irish when his parents were Polish immigrants? Can the guy really not do any other accent?

And what was the deal with the horse? Anyway, despite being pulled apart at the seams, it’s still a nice jacket to look at, even if it looks different to what you expected when you paid for it. An interesting concept for a debut from writer/director Akiva Goldsman. Considering this was the guy (yeah he’s a guy. I know, right? Thank God I did my research) who produced the Paranormal Activity franchise.

An easy-going supernatural love ride that may be a bit shoddy on the exposition but makes up for it with originality, special effects and good acting.

3 (just)/5