*NEW* SILENCE REVIEW *NEW*

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Silence was probably the best reaction I could muster after this arduous affair.

Two priests travel to Japan in an attempt to locate their mentor and propagate Catholicism.

There were moments where I felt I was being tortured with the priests and NOT in a good way (If there is a good way).

I’m a fan of Scorsese. Who isn’t? (If you’re not, get out of here!) Goodfellas, Casino, Shutter Island, Taxi Driver, the list goes on. We all have our favourites.

BUT his latest foray into religion left me a little numb and downtrodden.

This may have been a long term project finally coming to life BUT I found myself befuddled and lost in what the movie maestro was trying to do.

The strong opening sequence certainly grabbed my attention. The sound of crickets getting louder and louder until . . . NOTHING . . . Silence. The credits rolled. An air of unease as figures shifted around the foggy marshes.

The fog cleared to reveal crucifixes. The tone was set. My curiousity peaked. Cue the most challenging three hours of my life.

Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography was hauntingly beautiful. In one shot, he could make a dilapidated village look desolate and deadly to warm and inviting. A masterstroke.

The first act was slow BUT engaging as Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) was forced to watch the torture of his own clergymen. His grim voice over describing every detail.

It was brutal as the priests had their bodies scolded with hot spring water. To stop the punishment; all they had to do was denounce God by stepping on a face plate of Jesus.

I felt Silence had a hint of Heart of Darkness with Ferreira’s whereabouts unknown (Yes, an absent Neeson. Disappointing). Only whispers in the wind suggesting his demise with some even saying the priest had abandoned his faith and taken refuge with the Japanese.

Andrew Garfield was fantastic as the naive Rodrigues. Refusing to believe the gossip and desperate to seek the truth. I don’t think I would have been as interested if he wasn’t at the helm. He carried the piece.

I was constantly on edge throughout the film. The unease and suspense was executed perfectly. All the secrecy and creeping around for two priests to deliver Midnight Mass. The villagers hiding in the dark. Afraid to announce their faith.

The silence was unsettling. Scorsese created a tranquil and haunting atmosphere. By the first hour, I was surprised to still be absorbed in this story as the priests hid under the floorboards to evade capture from The Inquisitor (Issei Ogata).

I loved the little nods to Akira Kurosawa. The influences were everywhere from the camera shots to the set design.

Jay Cocks (Don’t laugh. Come on now) and Scorsese penned a fantastic script. There were some great bits of dialogue. I haven’t read the Shusaku Endo novel so I don’t know how much of that praise goes to the author.

Adam Driver was surprisingly good as Garupe. I’ve only really known him as the loud mouth who loves sex and nachos in What If or the sulky emo Sith from Star Wars. He made a great duo with Garfield.

However, the middle act was where Scorsese should have trimmed the fat. It could have been cut by a good 40 minutes and this was where the problem began for me.

Ogata’s strangely eccentric and bizarrely camp performance as Inquisitor Inoue was a mixed bag for me.

His religious sparring with Rodrigues was brilliant. Two stubborn figures debating their cause and defending their faiths. BUT as they tackled these strong themes, beliefs and values, I could feel my attention waning.

The endless torture sequences were relentless as the Japanese continued to punish any self-proclaimed Christians and their loved ones. The agonising length and exhaustive monologuing soon had a cathartic effect.

I was disappointed when Rodrigues and Garupe split up to spread the good word. Driver’s absence was missed. Their dismal reunion was too rushed and abrupt for my liking.

Kichijiro’s character (Yôsuke Kubozuka) infuriated me. The cowardly villager that continually betrayed Rodrigues. Only to return to confess. I knew where I would have told him to go.

BUT if anything, he encapsulated the hypocrisy of the confession. As if being granted forgiveness by God would make up for his treachery?!

Tadanobu Asano was delightfully smug as the Interpreter. Toying with Rodrigues as he faced trial for his faith. Laughing at the priest’s belief. Knowing that resistance was futile.

The final act was tense, gripping and hard going as Rodrigues finally discovered Ferreira’s demise.

The film really put me through a rollercoaster ride of emotions BUT I can’t honestly say I enjoyed it. I considered seeking the novel for answers BUT I felt drained.

It was a daunting affair that certainly lingered long after my viewing BUT for the right reasons? Or just for the sheer disappointment?

Silence will determine the die hards from the Scorsese fans. If you fancy a completely different tone and direction with a fantastically acted religious drama, then this may be for you.

BUT anybody else may find this a testing effort that will lose you along the way.

Me? I’m still some what in-between.

2.5/5

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*NEW* MIDNIGHT SPECIAL REVIEW *NEW*

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Not that special.

A father (Michael Shannon – Man of Steel) and son (Jaeden Lieberher – St. Vincent) go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers.

Overhyped, drawn out and disappointing. A patchy affair, to say the least.

The opening 30 minutes was everything I expected. It was tense, slow burning and mysterious as we watched Roy (Shannon) and Alton (Lieberher) hiding out in motels. Only travelling at nightfall. Evading capture at any cost. A suspenseful encounter with a state trooper after a late night car collision was nail-biting.

All the questions with none of the answers. Hook, line and sinker! Joel Edgerton (Warrior) worked well with Shannon as his friend and partner in crime. Lieberher excelled yet again (after a stellar turn in St. Vincent) as Alton. He felt like a cross between ET and D.A.R.Y.L. If said aliens were brainwashed by a religious cult.

I did expect more from Shannon’s performance. He didn’t impress as much as I hoped. Was a leading role a stretch too far after so many iconic supporting roles (Man of Steel/Boardwalk Empire)? He just wasn’t charismatic enough. I wanted to care for the pair. BUT as the film drudged along, my patience was soon tested.

Thankfully Jeff Nichols didn’t explore too much of Sam Shepard’s (Mud) crazy ranch cult. I was happy NOT to be stuck with that dreary subplot. It felt like a pale imitation of Big Love (A show I would highly recommend). The perception that Alton was a gift from God was different BUT it didn’t really go anywhere.

Kirsten Dunst (Fargo) was wasted in her role. Her character was so weak and one dimensional. There was NO connection or chemistry between her and Shannon (or their characters) and by the time the frenetic finale came to a close, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

NOT even Kylo Ren could save the day. Adam Driver’s (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) initial introduction was annoying and dull. His communication babble and co-ordinate guff put me into a mini-coma.

It probably didn’t help that he looked like Matt from the hilarious Saturday Night Live Star Wars Undercover Boss skit (Check it out – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaOSCASqLsE). However, Driver’s nerdy shtick soon won me over and was a much needed boost in this increasingly drawn out yarn.

The mystery throughout the first half of the film was the only thing keeping me going. The fact we didn’t know why Alton was special. Why did he have to leave? Who was coming for him? Did he even have powers? Was it a hoax? Mere pandemonium from a bunch of deluded zealots?

All we knew was that he had to wear goggles during the day and stay out of the sunlight. BUT the second half of this sci-fi snooze-fest threw that out of the window with Alton blazing light out of his eyes like Cyclops from X-Men. Pulling satellites out of the sky and babbling in radio frequencies.

Don’t get me wrong, when it (finally) kicked off, there were moments to be had. The special effects were brilliantly executed and the chase sequences soon stopped me fidgeting in my seat.

BUT I think it would have worked much better if Nichols had played out whether Alton was an alien or not up to the very end. The sci-fi stuff was revealed far too early. Killing a lot of the tension and suspense for me.

I loved the Close Encounters of Third Kind vibe to the piece BUT it was far too patchy. There were only so many sweeping shots from Adam Stone’s beautiful cinematography and brooding scores (from regular Nichols stalwart David Wingo) to keep my interest.

The finale was frantic and baffling BUT ultimately by the closing credits, predictable and disappointing. A bizarre set design, that was supposed to be breathtaking and captivating, looked like something from Tomorrowland.

Nichols left it on a strange climax with more questions. I could see what he was trying to do BUT by the end I really didn’t care. For all the mystery and tension, it couldn’t hide what was a rather weak and tame alien road movie that (despite all the promise) lacked in depth or originality.

It was watchable BUT far too patchy and overhyped. Personally, Mud is still my favourite out of Nichols’ works.

2.5/5

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

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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 defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

Don’t worry. I will do my utmost NOT to spoil anything. Promise.

I always went out of my way to avoid getting into the Star Wars films. BUT the force was too strong. I couldn’t resist the score, the characters, the very world that Lucas capitulated.

The humour, the action, the corny exchanges. Thankfully they were all still there. It probably helped that Abrams teamed up with Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back/The Return of the Jedi. Ugh. Those Ewoks. Man oh man).

The first hour I was hooked. Engrossed. Fantastic special effects. Frenetic energy. Great characters. SOLD.

The introduction of several new faces spiced up the mix. John Boyega (Attack the Block) and Daisy Ridley (Mr Selfridge) were worthy additions and certainly held their own.

Oscar Isaac’s (Ex Machina) Poe wasn’t in this enough. His quick witted one liners reminded me of a young Han Solo. BUT after making an impressionable introduction, he was largely absent. Shame.

Ridley was superb. It was a breath of fresh air to see a female heroine after following Luke and Anakin. She carried the film and was a likeable protagonist. Boyega was very good as troubled trooper Finn. Come a long way from Attack The Block.

We also had a new villain in the form of the mysterious Kylo Ren. Channelling his inner Vader. I was transfixed. That was until the chap took off his helmet. Sorry, Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You). I can see why that Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account exists. His isolated conversation with Vader’s broken helmet was haunting.

Domnhall Gleeson (About Time) also delivered an underrated performance as General Hux. By the end, I was more entranced with him than Ren. Rivalling Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin as the creepy underling. His unsettling Hitler-esque speech made the hairs stand on the back of my neck.

However, the biggest scene stealer was the adorable android BB-8. Hilarious. I’m sure a lot of people will be wanting to buy one of these little bots. I know I want one.

 

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Of course, the heavily flogged trailers revealed the return of some old faces. It was great to see Han Solo and ol’ Chewie. They were fantastic and haven’t changed a bit. Perfect. Harrison Ford was on fine form. Showing the newbies how it’s done.

Believe it or not, this really will be down to how much of a Star Wars fan you are. Go figure. If you’re anything like me, you would have already had your Star Wars marathon. The Good (Episode V), The Bad (Episode II) and the Ugly (Episode I).

If you haven’t then I would highly recommend that you don’t. As much as Abrams and Kasdan changed a few things, introduced new faces and brought back the old ones, there was only so much you could do with the story arc.

The closing act felt like one enormous retread of Episode IV: A New Hope. Different characters doing the exact same thing with the same end result. Predictable and frankly a little disappointing.

It didn’t help that the pace got increasingly patchy as the film carried on. A drawn out bar sequence with Maz Kanata (voiced brilliantly by Lupita Nyong’o) certainly didn’t help matters. The force waffle went on too long and I couldn’t help but think of Madge from Benidorm while Kanata spoke. Anybody else see it? Nope?

 

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I knew that Episode VII was going to be a continuation BUT I was still expecting more. Maybe it was a case of hype being a hindrance after setting the bar so high. Don’t get me wrong, it was a vast improvement from Episodes I and II. I know some of you will say, “Well, that wouldn’t take much”.

BUT as much as Abrams and Kasdan tried to create a little mystery around the old faces as we wondered what had happened in 30 years, it was pretty easy to piece together.

Carrie Fisher was wasted in her role as Leia. Gutted. I couldn’t make head or tail of what Andy Serkis’ (The Lord of the Rings) Supreme Leader Snoke was supposed to be.

The pace tested. The plot was disappointing. BUT I was still happy to be taken back to that crazy universe and once I saw a particular piece of space junk take flight, I was beaming from ear to ear.

An enjoyable enough romp and a welcome return for a franchise. BUT if there is to be more, retread old ground we must NOT.

3.5/5 (Just)

WHILE WE*RE YOUNG REVIEW

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My exact thoughts as I waited for this indie dramedy to end.

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts do their best but it just didn’t hit the mark for me.

The endless praise certainly piqued my interest. A shame that it just couldn’t deliver.

A middle-aged couple’s career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives.

I feared the worst from the opening scene in which we have an extract from Ibsen’s The Master Builder.

A scene that commented on the ever-growing invasion and domination of youth. Slow and a little pretentious.

I could see what writer/director Noah Baumbach was trying to do with the film but I still couldn’t fight my disappointment.

We join Josh (Stiller) and Cornelia (Watts) as they battle being middle-aged while their friends are settling down and having babies.

The opening 15 minutes was easy going enough. Stiller and Watts had good chemistry. Their difficulty in dealing with a baby demonstrated the spanner in their supposedly well-oiled machine.

I didn’t mind sitting back and examining a normal relationship as Stiller and Watts confront their issues but I just wanted more.

Stiller can act and I have desperately prayed for a better project to come along.

While We’re Young may be a mixed bag but it showed what Stiller can do when he’s not running around museums or strutting down walkways (I can’t believe I’m saying this but I can’t wait for Zoolander 2)

Things took a slightly more interesting turn with the introduction of Adam Driver. Amanda Seyfried’s character barely made an impression.

A nothingy role. I think her only real contribution worth noting was when she took a confused Watts to a hip hop class.

Driver certainly got things moving. Pardon the irony. The problem was that I always had an inkling that his intentions were not what they seemed. Probing Stiller for information under the persona of a fan boy.

Playing to his ego with endless brown nosing and slick charm.

It was interesting in parts to witness this young couple transform this “old” couple. A catalyst that sparked the life back into their humdrum lifestyle.

The trilby hats, the gigs, the shoes with no socks fad. Spot on.

The whole battle and jealousy of youth debacle had its moments. The fact that youngsters like myself have a niche for all things retro and vintage was a valid observation.

Stiller’s culture clash with Driver and his hipsters about a 70s cartoon that he grew up with sparked an interesting debate.

Loving something just because it’s old. Not even knowing the story or the character.

I can’t really say this is a comedy. There were moments but the tone was a little uneven for me.

I don’t think Baumbach knew which direction to take the film. It went from painfully deadpan with Stiller uncovering a film conspiracy that challenged the very ethics of filmmaking to just plain bizarre.

Not enough consistency for me. The sequence in which Watts and Stiller join the youngsters for a weekend retreat to drink some liquid and vom up some “demons” while listening to Vangelis may sound funny but it was just weird.

Everyone standing around chatting while casually throwing up in their designated buckets just didn’t do it for me. Was Baumbach trying to throw in a gag that was more befitting of Stiller’s familiar humour?

Charles Grodin is getting old. Long are the days since Midnight Express. Hell even Harry and the Hendersons or Beethoven, shudder.

He played Josh’s father-in-law well. I just wish their fractious relationship was explored a little more. There were some good insights but I wanted more conflict and some sort of progress.

And that was the main issue for me in general. The film had likeable characters that I wanted to see more done with.

There was an interesting revelation with Cornelia in which she suffered a miscarriage. I wanted more time focused on that.

It wasn’t until the closing moments that it was really dealt with. I understand that in real life with an ordeal like that, a lot of people sweep it under the carpet or act like nothing happened.

But when you’re watching a drama, you want . . . a little drama!

The ending was abrupt and a little weak after things finally seem to come to a head. The closing shot was humorous. A perfect statement of what is happening with the youth of today. It just wasn’t that interesting.

Too long, too talky and not much going on.

Two stars for the two talented leads.

2.5/5

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU REVIEW

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This is where I leave the cinema for a bit . . .

No, it’s not that bad. But not that great either considering the talent at Shawn Levy’s fingertips.

Levy’s projects have always been okay (Real Steel/ Date Night/The Internship). For some of you those titles might make you wince. The master of ground breaking comedy classics? Not even close.

The cast did their best with the material. It’s just a shame that the material is not that good. In all fairness, Levy takes a stab at family dramedy. But maybe he shoudn’t have.

AND if you wanted anyone to head a dysfunctional family, it would be Jason Bateman (Arrested Development/Horrible Bosses).

So what’s it all about? When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother (Jane Fonda) and their spouses and exes.

Jason Bateman was brilliant. He carried the film in my opinion. His marriage breakdown story line was hardly original but it gave an extra something to the endless childish sibling bickering that dominated the majority of the screen time. How it was all resolved was a little predictable and terribly flat but at least there were a few dramatic moments to be had.

Tina Fey didn’t really deliver as much as I hoped. I know she’s funny. Come on, 30 Rock and Date Night proved that. It felt like she played it safe and stuck with the tame script which made her highly unmemorable, bar two little scenes. She worked well with Bateman and did her best but with her comedic prowess, you expected something a little better.

Adam Driver (What If?) was a much needed comedy injection. His lines were hardly comedy gold but his delivery and style managed to get a smile out of me. His relationship with Bateman made for an entertaining and endearing one.

Connie Britton was wasted in her role. A shame after her turn in Friday Night Lights and Nashville. A nothingy character that didn’t really add anything to the mix. Nothing more than a psychiatrist MILF that Adam Driver got to show off to the family.

Speaking of nothingy role, Timothy Olyphant come on down! Absolutely gutted after his terrific performance in Justified. His character was involved in a naff subplot that didn’t really go anywhere. This is what infuriated me with TIWILY. There were so many missed opportunities with the characters and the cast to make more drama and better story lines.

I know that this was adapted from a Jonathan Tropper novel. I can’t say how faithful the film is to its source material but it certainly hasn’t made me want to read it.

Some of the gags were just plain terrible. I mean the recurring joke of the little toddler moving his potty around to poop all over the house was just not funny. The little toddler himself actually was hilarious. His improvisation with some of the cast was brilliant. They didn’t expect him to retort back. More of that would have been perfect.

But potty-ing (I know it’s not a word. I’m not wasting any time finding another) around the house and flinging poo? Awww. No. AWWW – Are you kidding me? Put your potty in the bathroom, boy. Jeez.

Anyhoo . . . The sibling rivalry and tension wasn’t badly done. Everyone can relate to it in some capacity and the moments in which they look back and experience the old nostalgia make for some nice moments. One of the gags that should have been branded as just plain lazy actually entertained me.

A scenario involving some marijuana and a synagogue classroom actually allowed for a comical encounter between Bateman, Driver and Corey Stoll (Homeland). It was great to see Stoll have a bigger role and he doesn’t do a bad job as the stubborn older brother.

Ben Schwartz was incredibly annoying as the hyperactive Rabbi Charles Grodner or Boner to everybody else. Delightful. A guest that gets a giggle and then overstays his welcome . . . in almost every scene. Not even the (usually) hilarious Kathryn Hahn (Step Brothers/We’re The Millers) could save the day with her kooky momma hell bent on getting preggers. It was weak.

And Jane Fonda . . . Apart from having fake pumped up breasts to cue inevitable breast feeding gags, she was highly unmemorable. In fact, there was a bizarre revelation that occurs nearer the end of the film which doesn’t fit in at all. It didn’t work and just completely unnecessary. It was nothing more than a lazy plot device to stop the family scrapping. The only bit of real heated drama that got me interested.

Dax Sheppard (Without A Paddle) played the two-timing sleazebag well. But is this the only character that he can play? And to be honest, when he was first introduced with the Howard Stern DJ spiel, it wasn’t funny. Just annoying as hell. It made a change for Abigail Spencer (Suits) to play a more meatier role as the cheating wife. But the story line was so hammy and predictable, it never really hit the heights that you’d hope.

Rose Byrne (Damages) and Bateman had good chemistry but their love subplot was so generic and corny that I really couldn’t care. Tropper left their little romance so open as a feeble attempt to prevent the predictable outcome but just made it flat and uninteresting.

To be honest, this film only did one thing. Well, two. Waste my time. And make me realise how good August: Osage County was. If you want a good family drama, then I’d invest your time in that instead.

There is the odd moment to be had. One chuckle here, one little heart plucker there. But memorable and entertaining? Quotable and re-watchable? Meh.

2/5

WHAT IF REVIEW

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What if . . . ‘Arry Potter made a rom com about falling in love with a girl who is with somebody else?

A surprisingly watchable and entertaining one, that’s what.

Daniel Radcliffe makes another impressive screen outing breaking away from those Hogwarts halls in this indie rom com.

Now it’s hardly original. The obvious clichés are all there.

The inevitable yearning, the awkward glances, that typical teen debate about whether men and women can be just friends without the sexual ambiguities hanging around them like a foul smell. The inevitable ending.

However, at it’s heart is also a well acted, if slightly corny, rom com that is able to make you laugh and care for the clueless couple.

A feat in itself. You can’t help but watch so many of these regurgitated predictable romantic comedies and not actually care about the protagonists.

Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick) have great chemistry and manage to apply it to some likeable and well written characters.

I think it really is down to your temperament of rom-coms. Normally I don’t have one.

So what’s it about? Wallace (Radcliffe), who is burned out from a string of failed relationships, forms an instant bond with Chantry (Kazan), who lives with her longtime boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall).

Together, they puzzle out what it means if your best friend is also the love of your life (Bleurgh)

I went in ready to hate this. The trailers made it all seem so corny and schmaltzy BUT that only really happened in the final act.

The first half was an easygoing insight into the couple’s brewing relationship that moved along at a steady enough pace.

It just focused on the two characters BUT the chemistry and witty dialogue kept it all on par.

There is very little breaking apart from them except for the odd moment with the supporting characters to question their intentions.

The supporting cast weren’t a bad selection.

Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) was the main scene stealer as Wallace’s promiscuous college room mate, Allan. His odd outlook on life and bizarre sex advice was hilarious.

Especially his celebratory quip after having sex. That line will be quoted for months to come (Well for me anyway).

Rafe Spall (Prometheus) played the suspicious boyfriend with an impeccable accent. His character made for some awkward encounters as well as a humourous kitchen accident.

Mackenzie Davis (That Awkward Moment) didn’t do too badly as Allan’s partner. Her brash forwardness made for some funny moments.

However, I couldn’t help but feel that when she was teamed up with Driver; it all got a little OTT and hit and miss for me. The kind of OTT stuff I was expecting from the get go.

Megan Park’s (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) introduction as the temptress spiced things up, desperate for a rebound lay and targeting the “available” Wallace.

Predictable like I said BUT it’s a story we’ve either experienced or know somebody who has.

I wish more was made out of the subplot with Wallace’s sister (Jemima Rooper – Hex/Kinky Boots) and nephew (Lucius Hoyos).

It was a missed opportunity that could have added a little more depth to Wallace’s character rather than having him brood on a roof for chunks of the movie.

The final act in which the pair were missing each other as they travelled to different destinations was unnecessary and hammed up what was a normal and (generally) more realistic love story.

It may have been predictable BUT I went in expecting the worst and was relieved. It was entertaining, got the odd laugh and thanks to two talented actors, I wasn’t too bothered.

One of the better ones anyway.

3/5