*NEW* NOCTURNAL ANIMALS REVIEW *NEW*

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Strange, hypnotic, tense, nail biting, different. Certainly one for the books.

An art gallery owner (Amy Adams) is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel (Jake Gyllenhaal), a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

I hadn’t even sat down and got comfortable before I was wondering what the hell I was getting myself into.

I never like to read too much about a film. All I had to go by was the hype. The endless promotion and tweets. I had to seek it out. The eye popping opening sequence certainly grabbed my attention as a bunch of morbidly obese elderly naked women gyrated and flaunted their money makers across the giant silver screen.

I kid you not. I have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed with the first 15 minutes BUT director Tom Ford’s (A Single Man) hypnotic visual style (aided by Seamus McGarvey’s beautiful cinematography) and Adam’s (Arrival) presence kept me going.

Abel Korzeniowski’s musical score was something else. Perfectly balanced against the haunting backdrops.

It was only when Susan (Adams) received a mysterious manuscript from her ex husband that my interest was peaked. A dual narrative set with Susan’s (Adams) cynical lifestyle and unhappy marriage to Hutton (Armie Hammer – The Man from U.N.C.L.E) running alongside Edward’s (Gyllenhaal – Demolition) story.

Gyllenhaal was superb. He really excelled in playing both the author and his fictional counterpart Tony. Nightcrawler certainly marked a turning point in ol’ Darko’s impressive career and he delivered yet another sterling performance. Oscar?

The film flicked back and forth from Adams’ past to Tony’s fictional struggle. The only problem was that I was found myself more interested with the fictional world than the real one. I’m sure that was supposed to be the point BUT it was a little frustrating watching the talented Ms Adams become increasingly more passive. A mere spectator in her own narrative.

The cut backs conveniently appeared at the tensest moments of Tony’s traumatic journey in the desert as his family crossed paths with some unsavoury characters.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) was superb as the demonic Ray. A complete change of role for him. A revolting creature lurking in the darkness. Dare I say, a nocturnal animal waiting to strike. I really detested him. A great performance.

The suspense had me on tenterhooks as the family feared for their lives. BUT every time we cut back to Susan dealing with her empty and frustrated life, I was urging the film to get back to Tony.

The questions piling up. Why is Susan so captivated with this story? Did this happen to her? Is this why she is no longer with Edward?

The supporting cast were impeccable. Michael Shannon (Midnight Special) was equally good as Bobby. The cop with nothing to lose. Ready to do anything to help Tony get justice. Made a change to see him play something less sinister.

I was a little disappointed at the lack of Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon) and Anne Riseborough (Birdman). Reduced to passing cameos as Susan’s gallery friends. Shame. Laura Linney (Mystic River) made more of an impression in her minute role as Susan’s controlling mother.

Despite that bizarre opener, I was hooked to the very end as you began to peel beneath the layers and realize that there is more than meets the eye. Gyllenhaal and Adams had good chemistry as we finally delved into Edward and Susan’s relationship.

My only qualm on first watch was the ending. It was a little abrupt and left me baffled. I actually looked around the cinema, wondering “Did I miss something?”. Perplexed, I went to forums and discussed heavily on Twitter about the ambiguous finale.

BUT for the first time in a while, I was left talking about a film for days. It actually made me have to think. I actually wanted to watch it again. An impressive feat in itself. Especially if you look back on my last months review backlog.

It was suspenseful, engaging and brilliantly acted. There was even a moment that took me completely off guard and made quite a few people jump in the screen. One chap actually yelped in surprise (No, not me!)

If you’re in the mood for something a little different to the norm, I would heavily recommend.

4/5 (Just)

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AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON REVIEW

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Did the second instalment do what the first couldn’t?

Was I left fuming yet again? Or did I have to swallow my words?

They’re back. Bigger, badder but better? There’s only one way to find out.

When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron (James Spader), things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans

I will admit straight off the bat. I really didn’t like the first Avengers. I know? SACRILEGE! It just didn’t do it for me. Overlong, mind numbing and overhyped. If not for Tom Hiddleston’s superb turn as Loki and a thrilling 30 minute closing crescendo, I would have given up on the franchise.

I was furious at how rushed the endless superhero entries were. Just to get to the Avengers release date. Okay, the Thor films were fantastic. Hawkeye and The Black Widow didn’t even get an origin story. Iron Man 1 and 3 were good. Don’t get me started on 2.

The numerous Hulk origin attempts with Bana and Norton misfired (I actually liked the Ang Lee blockbuster. What?). Captain America was rushed. I was happy to see more of the superhero fighting in the past. BUT the Winter Soldier sequel did restore my faith a little.

Inevitably after the crazy money that the first Avengers film took, we had another. And after much deliberation and note taking, I can firmly say . . .

Well done, Mr. Whedon. You have won me over.

The opening was racy, fast paced and straight to business. The team finally gelled together and in the zone. The special effects were fast and furious. The overuse of CGI did make things a little too cartoony in parts. But how else are they going to create a nine foot Hulk?!

There were numerous SHIELD references that went over my head in the opening. I knew it had something to do with Marvel Agents of SHIELD but I’m not that big a fan. It might help to recap on Thor or the first Avengers as a certain sceptre is used quite heavily again.

Whedon’s witty one liners zinging left, right and centre like the endless cannon fodder. The banter between the team was top notch. The old fashioned Cap (Chris Evans) telling Stark off for using foul language being an ongoing joke was a particular highlight.

The team dynamic really worked for me and made for great viewing. I mean even the scene in which the gang were trying to lift Thor’s hammer as a drunken party trick shouldn’t have worked but was so funny.

Ultron was a perfect maniacal menace. Spader (Ol’ Red from The Blacklist) applying his gravelly gravitas with aplomb. The animation and detail was excellent.

I liked the brewing romance between Banner/Hulk and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). The lullaby that they use to calm the Hulk was a nice touch even if it reminded me of Shrek and Fiona. But I honestly thought there was always something between The Widow and The Cap? Oh, that cheeky minx. Anyway . . .

Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson made a more convincing couple as the Maximoff twins than they ever did in Godzilla. My only quibble with Taylor-Johnson was that his character Quicksilver was very much like a character in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Evan Peters played him. He ran really fast. What was he called? Oh yeah. Quicksilver. Hmmm . . . Interesting that. Copyright issues were there?

Olsen was always my Kryptonite even if she has been in some terrible movies. But she did the role of the Scarlet Witch justice as did Kickass.

I wasn’t really bored. It just got on with it and zipped along. Dipping only in a few parts to allow some much needed character development on some neglected heroes. *Cough* Hawkeye *Cough* Black Widow.

Renner had taken to the role well. But he was so one-dimensional. I mean, come on Whedon. Surely you’ve seen Arrow? But without spoiling anything, Whedon finally ventured into his background and gave him more depth. He was able to stand out among the ever-expanding roster of superheroes.

The trippy dream sequences that the Witch uses to play on her opponents’ minds was interesting as we got a little peak into The Black Widow’s past; most notably her training.

It was funny, intense, action packed. Great acting (Check), top banter (Check), cheeky Stan Lee cameo (BIG CHECK!). There were a few surprises to be had. BUT I couldn’t help but feel that there were too many characters from the Marvel-verse being introduced. Paul Bettany’s The Vision was an addition that felt like a mish-mesh of everybody else and didn’t really make as much of an impression as I expected.

And considering the huge ensemble, there were a few faces not to make an appearance. Merely mentioned in a passing comment. I’m looking at you, ladies. Ms Portman and Paltrow.

Inevitably it is all left wide open for more. SPOILERS! Behave. BUT this time round, I cannot wait for the next installment. I’m actually a little excited.

Well done.

3.5/5 With grounds to change to a 4

NOTE: Obviously stay behind and endure the relentless credits for a cheeky ten second teaser.

THE TOP 20 WORST FILMS OF 2014 – PART ONE

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 for a change, let’s start from 20 – 11, followed by PART TWO with 10 – 1

SCALE: 20 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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20. TAMMY

Melissa McCarthy failed on every platform. An interesting story line? Nah. Good characters? Well, Susan Sarandon wasn’t bad. Jokes? Bar the fast food restaurant robbery, zilch.

I like McCarthy. I normally find her hilarious BUT she tried to deliver the same old loud mouthed, slobby monster with a heart spiel and it failed to keep me intrigued, interested or laughing (The ultimate crime of all).

Thoroughly disappointed. It was that flat, I have no energy to make any other comment. Check my review if you like.

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19. LUCY

How the hell this stayed at Number 1 in the UK for so long baffled me more than the finale?!

A racy opening had high hopes with the alluring ScarJo kicking ass and taking names whilst gaining higher intelligence. Check, check, check. I was ticking all the boxes.

BUT the endless scientific mumbo jumbo and ridiculous CGI kicked all tension, pace and fun out of this bonkers flick.

Not even the smooth dulcet tones of Morgan Freeman could save the day.

His character really had no idea what to do and was completely pointless and the finale?

WTF? I haven’t felt that confused and annoyed since I watched The Matrix Revolutions.

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18. THE DEVIL’S KNOT

If not for the two (normally) talented leads, this would have been nothing more than a TV movie that you’d expect to see late at night on Sky Atlantic’s twilight scheduling.

A harrowing opening showed promise BUT what we got was an overlong court yarn that was never really resolved.

A harsh twist BUT in terms of film viewing . . . DISAPPOINTING!

The constant repetition of the same old facts and the endless witness testimonies just numbed me into a little coma.

It just didn’t go anywhere in terms of suspense, performance or story. It felt like one of those American crime docudramas that are on the Crime Network all the time.

The only person who might come out unscathed was the legendary Colin Firth. He did his best and delivered a sterling Southern accent BUT it didn’t hide the fact his character was quite dull.

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17. OCULUS

That image above was my face coming out of the cinema after seeing this.

Karen Gillian and Brenton Thwaites did their best BUT Oculus was such a slow and tedious affair.

Evil mirrors? Really. Just lock it away if it can’t be broken. Job done.

The constant flashbacks coinciding with the present just mirrored (Ba-dum-tssh) what the pair were doing.

When it did finally get going, it got a little more watchable. BUT it just ended. Quite abruptly and SO predictably.

If I wasn’t so bored by the end, I would have been wild with rage. Meh.

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16. HORNS

Hell hath no fury like a horny Harry?

I wish. It was terrible. Radcliffe does his best to keep this watchable BUT the story is so weak and uninteresting that even when the weird stuff does kick in.

And it does. I could feel the Devil taking away my patience and interest.

It took an hour before anything of worth really happened. And the whodunnit was so obvious, I was saying out loud. It’s that person. Right there!

All we got was a sulky HP moping around some woods while people told him their darkest secrets.

Things get interesting for one moment when HP finally goes dark . . . BUT then he goes back to skulking around. Even with those ginormous devil horns and super devil powers? Lame.

And the ending was laughable. From the people who made this.

Haha. You sat through this. Infuriating, boring and just plain awful.

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15. OUIJA

This poster freaked me out more than the film.

I said it before and I’ll say it again. I wish they could have used the Ouija board to summon up something better than this.

Predictable, naff and unoriginal. This managed to make Long Time Dead a horror classic by comparison. And that was pretty shit.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of jumpy bits. BUT it was hard not to when the music was so damn loud.

The scares reeked of desperation. The only shock I got was that this wasn’t filmed in a shaky handheld found footage format.

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14. GODZILLA

God help the sequel. How did this make money?

The film is called Godzilla. So why did we have a 90 minutes of giant moth mutants trying to get jiggy?!

The iconic monster only really surfacing for 15 minutes. Mindless exposition with bland characters. Aaron “Airhead” Taylor Johnson as the lead character.

I did my rant a long time ago. I can’t do this again.

BUT please watch this incredibly accurate Honest Trailer clip of Godzilla. It’s perfect. Unlike this monstrosity!

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13. ROBOCOP

I wouldn’t buy this for a dollar.

A completely unnecessary remake. Making this a 12A didn’t help matters.

There could have been an opportunity to poke fun at the social media, the iPhone. Anything that hadn’t been covered in the 1987 original. BUT no!

We got the same old guff. Just less violent, less satirical and . . . I forget my point.

Joel Kinnaman was terribly mechanical. Before he even donned the Robo get up.

Not even Samuel L Jackson could save the day. In fact he made it worse. I think he was trying to do his best (or worst) Ron Burgundy impression. Either way, it didn’t work.

Dead or alive, I wouldn’t bother watching this.

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12. I, FRANKENSTEIN

I can’t believe I sat through this.

If it wasn’t so laughable, I would have walked out.

It didn’t help that the cast, especially Aaron Eckhart, took it so seriously when the premise was so ridiculous and far fetched.

This could have been a fun B-movie mickey take BUT it was just a droll, cringe worthy disaster.

The 15 minute gargoyle battle in the closing half kept me quiet for that duration BUT it was hard to be that interested when you had no idea who was fighting.

Plus the characters were that unmemorable that you couldn’t give a monkey’s.

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11. MRS BROWN’S BOYS D’MOVIE

What da feck?

Now, I will admit. I am a fan. BUT O’Carroll really did take the biscuit.

Slapping any old thing together for a quick buck.

Applying the studio audience sitcom format to a movie? No, no, no!

The impromptu outtake in between the story line didn’t work and felt disjointed.

BUT the main issue is that it just wasn’t funny! I sighed, I fidgeted.

For a moment, I thought I was watching a foreign film without subtitles because everyone else was laughing.

For shame, Mrs Brown. Naff plot, naff characters and naff jokes makes this viewer one MAD RANTER.

GODZILLA REVIEW

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Godzilla? God help us. I really wanted this to work but yet again another reboot fails to hit the mark by it’s hero’s gargantuan tail. A drawn out, plot holed mess that if not for a promising 15 minute finale would have been a complete fossil. This poor piece of dino doodoo goes out with a yawn than a ROAR!

When I heard that Gareth Edwards, the man who gave us the low budgeted apocalyptic cult creature feature Monsters, had been green lit to direct the Godzilla reboot, I was excited. Monsters gave us a taster of his visual brilliance. Granted the story was nothing new but give him the right material and a bigger budget and Godzilla could be something. It is such a shame that I report that even with an impressive cast, this film will sink and should stay in the underwater prison that kept Godzilla away for most of the movie (You read that right).

Bryan Cranston does his best to make the technical mumbo jumbo sound interesting and plausible. Hell, the guy even speaks Japanese. But you can’t help but feel it’s just Hal from Malcolm in the Middle as an engineer. Especially when he is running, panting, and screaming quite high pitched. It’s all unintentionally hilarious. I mean it was always going to be hard for Cranston to find a suitable follow up project after the excellent Breaking Bad.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I actually preferred it’s ridiculously corny and OTT 1998 blockbuster brother, Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla. It deliberately poked fun at the hokey concept while this takes itself far too seriously (which wasn’t a problem to begin with. I mean if Christopher Nolan can do it, why not?). It just highlights the number of plot holes in the loose story line to give the humans something to do. Look I don’t care about the concept of a giant dinosaur causing havoc on the world’s major landmarks. But the problem when you have giant dinosaurs or robots (I’m looking at you, Transformers) that can survive nuclear bombs (pretty much the biggest weapon we can launch at the buggers), the only thing the human race can do as Ken Wantanabe rightly says, “Let them fight.”

Edwards obviously intended to wet our whistles, stalling the inevitable appearance of the gargantuan giant. I’m fine with that but not when we are left with naff, generic character regurgitating scientific mumbo jumbo that bores the living stuffing out of you. I mean a beautifully shot scientific expedition with Ken Wantanabe (The Last Samurai/Batman Begins) and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) that skims across The Philippines and Japan teases us with a dino skeleton here, a trail of destruction there but as you’re waiting for the hero, you realise there is no point in the scientist’s journey as it makes no sense and is completely necessary. That big budget being put to use. Alexandre Desplat’s score is suspenseful and pacey but there isn’t much suspense or tension to keep you hooked.

I mean the opening sequence with the redacted 1950s footage was a complete rip off of the Emmerich rehash. I won’t spoil too much. That being said, there wasn’t much to spoil. This was advertised all wrong. The main creatures that we are stuck following are mutated parasites, well giant cockroach things that feed off radiation and it’s up to good ol’ Zilla to sort them out. At a two hour running time, there just isn’t enough going on. Every time we see those cockroach things, we get two minutes of carnage then they fly off to another expensive location for more blockbuster budget spending. When Godzilla finally appears, the animation and visual effects are impeccable, from his expressions to his incredibly loud roar. Seriously I nearly went deaf in the cinema.

But every time he looks like he’s going to do something. The camera cuts away or flashes to the aftermath. Screw that, I want to see it! Instead we get a rather hench looking army chughead Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) sleepwalking through his lines as he suffers daddy issues with his paranoid skeptic of a father, Mr Bryan Cranston. Cranston’s angry scientist was the only thing worth watching in between the creatures popping up as if to say, “We will be fighting . . . eventually”. An unexpected twist got my attention, only to leave it open for more . . . monotonous drivel that went nowhere. Wantanabe looking white as a sheet petrified of Godzilla just becomes a parody in itself. The talented David Straitharn (The Bourne Ultimatum/Alphas) plays a stocky grunting general that asks the main question every film goer is thinking, “Where’s Godzilla?”. A character that has spawned numerous movies and hit movie history is left making a short 15 minute appearance for the “big finale”.

The little details soon irritate. When you first see the tip of his spine arise out of the ocean like something out of Jaws, a smile cracks but after half an hour, you end up screaming (quite ironically), “Get out of the water!”. When Big G gets to fight, the special effects are brilliant. But I can’t help feel that it’s a little too dark (in the visual sense, literally) to see what’s going on.

The fighting does appeared laboured and mechanical but that’s where the fun came from the classics. The special effects do nothing to spoil that. In fact they improve it. I wouldn’t waste your money on 3D, apart from the opening, where smoke and ash rains out the screen, everything else is just a little more prominent but not a massive investment.

The HALO jumping sequence was decent, especially when it flicked to the first person angle, in which we see the soldiers dive out of the plane into the ensuing fog and debris left by Godzilla and co. However, when you think back, they didn’t need to do it. Seriously.

Unfortunately, before people realise the mess that this film is, it will have already made its money and a sequel has already been green lit. But this offering has not heightened my excitement to fish out the next one. Edwards excels at the effects yet again but the love of God, give us some characters we care about.

It doesn’t offer anything for the leading ladies at all. I mean Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) had such a pointless part, anyone could have played her. The same can be said for the beautiful Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy remake), who was left either staring blankly, screaming or waiting on the phone. A shame. This had all the potential to start the blockbuster season with a BANG but only went with a BOO! Let’s hope X Men or Transformers can reward our patience. 2/5 for me.

As a side note, how cool would it have been if Heisenberg squares up to Godzilla and screams, “SAY MY NAME!”. To which Godzilla roars in subtitles, “HEISENBERG”. Then skulks away. “THIS IS MY TERRITORY!”. Maybe it will be in The Director’s Cut?!

Currently ranks #117 out of 174!