*NEW* STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS REVIEW *NEW*

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

starwarsposter

Was the force strong with this one? Was this the sequel I was looking for?

In a nutshell, hype help it did NOT.

It was always going to be tough to follow on from such an iconic trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI) BUT it was still an enthralling and promising effort from J.J. Abrams. After the successful Star Trek reboot, I had full confidence in the director to continue George Lucas’ legacy.

As soon as those infamous credits came up, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .” and that iconic John Williams score boomed through the surround sound speaker system, this film nerd bellowed a Wookie cry in rejoice.

It was hard NOT to get that buzz and excitement as the plot scrolled up the screen into nothingness. Thankfully, there was no dense mumbo jumbo about taxation. *Cough* Phantom Menace *Cough*

Three decades after the…

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*NEW* WIND RIVER REVIEW *NEW*

Tense. Breath-taking. If a little slow in places.

A veteran tracker (Jeremy Renner) helps an inexperienced FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) investigate the murder of a young Native American woman.

I love it when you go into a movie not knowing anything. All I had was the endless #WindRiver hashtags filling my Twitter feed. My curiousity peaked.

Thank God for Twitter. A riveting and well-acted thriller.

As soon as I saw, “Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan”, I knew I was in for a treat. The man responsible for Hell or High Water. One of my favourite films of 2016 (Has it really been a year, already?)

Now helming a new favourite for this year.

Jeremy Renner was brilliant. I’ve always felt he was an underrated actor.

The role of Cory Lambert was perfectly suited for him. A man desperate to keep himself to himself BUT also wanting to do the right thing.

The pace was set on the slow burner with Sheridan teasing titbits of Lambert’s past. The questions already mounting; Why the outback? Why is he so good with that rifle? Why does he have such a strained relationship with his ex-wife?

The awkward atmosphere and idle chit chat as the pair force conversation while Lambert waits for his son.

A man plagued by his own demons. Punishing himself with a life in the wilderness. That was until he discovered a body in the snow . . .

Olsen was excellent as the inexperienced agent Banner. Her arrival summed up the character perfectly as she stood in the snow ill-equipped with a trouser suit.

The only available agent in the area. Sent all the way from Nevada. BUT despite her naivety, Banner’s determination to crack the case and deliver justice for the victim sparked something in Lambert.

The Avengers duo were fantastic together. They had great chemistry and made the dynamic really work.

“We have six people covering an area the size of Rhode Island”.

Sheridan was even able to throw in some social commentary at the hypocrisy of the law enforcement.

Banner’s heated debate with a coroner spoke volumes. Refusing to class the crime as a homicide. The outcome determining how much support the FBI would provide. Mental.

Ben Richardson’s cinematography was brilliant. With one frame, he made the snowy outback look beautiful and inviting. BUT with the next; deadly and haunting.

You couldn’t hide that Neo-Western feel. The Wind River reservation nothing more than a place of a desolation full of lost souls and dangerous ones.

The isolation and loneliness being the real killer.

A simple enquiry turned into a mad shoot out with a group of small-time meth-heads. Nail-biting.

I liked how Sheridan tied in the Native American community as the Crowheart clan struggled to come to terms with the loss of their daughter.

Heartbreaking. Banner’s attempt to console the mother delivered an unsettling scene as she walked in on the poor woman cutting herself. That bleak feeling of helplessness.

BUT as much as I was enjoying the film, the case itself felt a little generic and tame. I kept wondering what all the hype was about.

That was until the final act. The last 20 minutes. Just . . . Woah. No spoilers.

Heart in mouth stuff. My grumbling was soon put on hold as everything came to a tense and exhilarating climax.

There was even a stellar cameo from Jon Bernthal that came out of the blue. Another underrated actor bossing another supporting role.

As much as I picked at the pacing, (ironically) this film could have been longer.

If anything, Wind River could have done with fleshing things out a little more. Especially with Olsen and Renner’s partnership. I loved how Banner’s presence brought out Lambert’s anguish. Finally cracking his hard shell and allowing him to share his pain. Not enough!

The sombre finale hit home and delivered some shocking statistics on the number of missing Native American women in the States.

Fans of Hell or High Water or gritty bleak thrillers will enjoy this all the same. It wasn’t perfect BUT a rewarding effort all the same.

One I actually liked (I know, I bet you’re thinking. Jeez, he picked at this and he liked it?)

3.5/5

*NEW* IT REVIEW *NEW*

IT didn’t do much for me.

The highest grossing horror movie in box office history? Really?

A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown (Bill Skarsgard), begins hunting children.

For all the hype, I expected something more. Not to say, I didn’t enjoy it.

BUT a horror movie is supposed to scare you, right? Unsettle you, creep you out. Stick in the back of your mind days after viewing. No?

As a kid, I was always creeped out by Tim Curry’s Pennywise. Perhaps if I watched the 1990 TV mini-series now, I’ll probably laugh my arse off.

BUT it didn’t matter how demented Skarsgard’s Pennywise looked, he just did nothing for me.

Now don’t get me wrong. It was very watchable.

The creepy opening sequence was brilliantly executed. Benjamin Wallfisch’s haunting score. That little yellow rain coat. The familiar feeling of unease rising as Georgie’s boat was engulfed by that infamous sewer drain.

Skarsgard was an excellent Pennyise. He delivered a stellar turn as the iconic movie clown. The make-up and special effects were deliciously gruesome and gory.

In all fairness, I couldn’t fault any of the cast. They were all perfectly chosen for the roles.

Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) was on scene stealing form at every opportunity as Richie. Throwing in the odd quip or funny insult.

Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special) played Bill very well. Nailed the stammer (I don’t know if commending a speech impediment is a great line but you get what I mean, right?).

Jeremy Ray Taylor was very good as Ben, the new kid on the block (Yeah, I meant that reference IT fans). Jack Dylan Grazer was comical as the hypochondriac Eddie. BUT what do you expect with an overbearing mother like that? Sheesh. No spoilers.

The tension was built up perfectly in every scene and actually avoided going for the cheap scare. Unlike the majority of new horror movies or “found footage flicks” of late.

I loved the Stand By Me melancholy. The coming of age tale subtly composed against the darker murder mystery.

Pennywise’s appearance only scraping the surface of this seemingly idyllic town as the kids faced demented bloodthirsty bullies, lecherous pharmacists and freaky apparitions.

The grief theme was delicately handled with Bill. His parents nothing more than depressed shells. Zombies unaware of the horrors that dwell in the sewers.

Nicholas Hamilton (Captain Fantastic) was savage as the head bully Henry Bowers. He unsettled me more than Pennywise. That kid was messed up.

I did like how Pennywise attacked the gang by playing on their worst fears. The diseased leper and headless corpse apparitions were grotesque enough. And a highly unsavoury encounter between Beverly (Sophia Lillis) and her father left me on tenterhooks.

BUT the pace was a bit slow for my liking. There was a lot more humour than I expected. Sometimes a little too much that it killed the atmosphere. Sorry, I like my horrors dark.

I know they’re teenagers but the rock throwing altercation with the bullies with the overbearing 80s jams was a little silly.

If I’m honest, I found my patience running thin, the more Pennywise appeared. The running and screaming got on my nerves. I would have punched that clown in the face. Seriously. Beastly teeth or otherwise.

I don’t think it helped that I find clowns funny. So when Pennywise was delivering his freaky dance in one “creepy” scene, I was in stitches. A moment that has sparked endless (and hilarious) memes.

I mean, come on!

I didn’t jump. All the build up with no payoff. Maybe I was more inclined for the “cheap jump” trick than I thought. I just wasn’t on the edge of my seat or hiding behind my hands.

I felt Chosen Jacobs’ Mike and Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley got lost in the mix. Especially when Bill, Beverly and Ben’s love triangle came into play. BUT with such a mad bunch of eclectic characters, it was due to happen. Shame.

Maybe I expected too much from the hype.

My main qualm (and I know this has bugged people) was that it didn’t creep me out. Normally after I watch a horror movie, I go home and dread turning the lights on. None of that. If it weren’t for this review, I might have already forgot about IT.

Everything floats. Well, so did my interest.

IT wasn’t bad by any means.

IT created tension, delivered characters with depth and told an actual story but the pace tested and it just didn’t scare or unsettle me. The purpose of a horror film.

3/5

*NEW* xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE REVIEW *NEW*

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

He should have stayed dead.

Left for dead, Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L Jackson).

Let’s be honest. You should know what to expect with Vin Diesel. I actually enjoyed the first xXx. It had the right balance of action, fun and stupidity perfectly crammed into 90 adrenaline-fuelled minutes.

But this latest offering was just ridiculous. And not in a good way.

The opening sequence didn’t give me high hopes. Had the writers even seen xXx? NOT even Samuel L Jackson could save the day. He delivered his usual shtick BUT he seemed to forget the character he was supposed to be playing.

I always remembered Augustus Gibbons as a real hardass. His “Have you ever watched lions in the zoo?” speech left goosebumps.

His fractious relationship with the deluded Cage was the movie’s unique selling…

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*NEW* THE ACCOUNTANT REVIEW *NEW*

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

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Best film of the year? Don’t count on it.

Warning contains moderate forensic accounting.

As a math savant (Ben Affleck) uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise.

An engaging action packed thriller that delivers on the punch ups BUT stumbles on the plot and pace.

Ben Affleck played the stern faced socially awkward maths wiz perfectly. Unemotional, relentless and yet beneath his cold exterior; someone desperate to connect.

The first hour was slow burning BUT engrossing as the film flicked back and forth delving into the mysterious Christian Wolff. Cold, calculated and clever.

We watched him undergo his daily routine from eating with the same cutlery to wearing the same shirt. The questions mounting as he subjected himself to strobe lighting and heavy metal music while testing his sensitivity threshold. The flashbacks teasing mere tidbits of…

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*NEW* DETROIT REVIEW *NEW*

Tense, riveting if a little long at the tooth.

Fact-based drama set during the 1967 Detroit riots in which a group of rogue police officers respond to a complaint with retribution rather than justice on their minds.

The animated opening credits sequence about African migration during WW1 and WW2 was a little disjointed. The important issue was the overcrowded African American ghettos in the 60s.

The focal point of this piece. The growing frustration and rocky tension captured perfectly during a botched raid at an unlicensed nightclub.

You could have cut the tension with a knife as the white police officers tried to prevent unrest by arresting suspects away from the Main Street.

An attempt that proved pointless as the crowds gathered and the violence began. I loved how director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal looked at both sides to this disheartening affair.

You supported the forces during the initial looting and rioting. BUT by day two, they completely mishandled the situation. Beating and shooting looters for stealing food?

And let’s not forget, the trigger happy military looking for any excuse. Shooting at a child in a fifth storey building after mistaking her for a sniper. Horrendous.

I was really surprised and impressed at the British/Irish talent involved; Jack Reynor (Sing Street), John Boyega (Attack The Block) and Hannah Murray (Skins).

BUT Will Poulter stole the show for me. He played the shady Krauss brilliantly. The Son of Rambow star has come a long way. A complete change in direction from the comedy circuit and a mature performance.

Hell, those brows made him look evil. As a side note, if there is going to be a solo Joker movie (without Leto); this guy deserves a look in, surely?

Krauss’ decision making and inability to accept blame was frustrating, to say the least.

I loved the contrast between Krauss and Dismukes (Boyega). One going out of his way to cause destruction, the other doing his best to keep the peace.

Dismukes was an interesting character. A man just trying to do his job and avoid bloodshed. Branded an “Uncle Tom” of the streets for not rising up.

Crossing between the bordered up store fronts and military barricades to offer assistance where he could. I just wish there was more of that.

As much as I enjoyed the Dramatics’ Motown music and felt for them as they missed the gig of a lifetime due to rioting, the pace did test. The only thing I found Bigelow movies (of late) suffering from.

The middle act was where I could feel my interest wading. Don’t get me wrong. The cast involved with the Dramatics were brilliant and Algee Smith (Earth to Echo) had a fantastic voice!

I just felt the motel mingling, Coltrane talk and white power discussions meandered the piece. That was until a silly prank with a start-up pistol set off so much more.

The next hour, I was shocked and transfixed as Krauss’ team made one gruesome mistake after another.

The pressure mounting as they struggle to find a suspect or a gun. I will always commend Bigelow for delivering nail-biting suspense; Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker, Point Break (What?)

Regular Bigelow stalwart Barry Ackroyd’s grainy cinematography certainly brought a little more realism to it BUT the shaky cam (Like The Hurt Locker) was incredibly disorienting and erratic in places.

There was only so much yelling, swearing (and dropping of the N bomb) and gospel singing I could take as the hold-up reached breaking point.

The sick interrogation tactics had me on tenterhooks. Putting knives near the “suspects” as a ploy to use the “act of self-defence”. Horrifying.

Hannah Murray was surprisingly good. I’m used to seeing her playing drugged up or gormless protagonist.  You felt for her character as she was accused of being a prostitute for having no standards for sleeping with black men.

I didn’t expect to see Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Civil War) pop up in this as Krauss’ “prime suspect”. A war vet who escaped one war zone to join another. The punishment he received was mortifying. Desperately goading him into reacting.

The pace did test BUT the main thing I was disappointed with was Boyega. He is a great actor BUT his character grew increasingly passive as the film reached its shocking conclusion. His presence fading further into the background.

If not for a gruelling police investigation (A mockery in itself) after the Algiers Motel, I would have deemed his character unnecessary. Another bystander.

BUT the aftermath of The Algiers Motel was where it hit home.

The court scenes were infuriating. The injustice of it all as the cops strolled out the court house smirking. The legal system taking the side of the ones who were supposed to be protecting NOT abusing it. Regardless of the facts and accounts.

The abrupt finale went out with a whimper. BUT that was kind of the point.

I couldn’t believe the post-credit titles at what happened to the people involved. The case never really given true justice.

I can’t say it’s a good film (in the context of what it was about) BUT it delivered an atmospheric thriller with substance that is worth your attention.

3.5/5

*NEW* ALIEN: COVENANT REVIEW *NEW*

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

Even in space, no one should see this dreadful Alien prequel.

The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Sound familiar? It should.

For the love of God, Ridley Scott. Just stop.

I can respect the man and the writers for trying to expand the Alien universe and explore the mythology behind the xenomorphs but if this is the answer, then I think some mysteries were better left unsolved.

They should have learned from Prometheus. But for all its imperfections, I preferred that to this meandering mess.

For all its beauty, brooding score and captivating cinematography; beneath the surface there wasn’t much else.

Scott still can’t get over Cameron perfecting a classic. Alien set the bar high. No one knew how iconic that film would become. Without that slow burning sci-if…

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