*NEW* BABY DRIVER REVIEW *NEW*

Oh baby, that weren’t too shabby.

Fast, furious if a little frantic. One of the better ones.

After being coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), a young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

I’m not going to lie. The opening 15 minutes didn’t really give me high hopes.

Despite ticking all the boxes on the Edgar Wright movie checklist; cracking soundtrack (check), quick-cut editing (check), great humour; I wasn’t convinced about the main man.

Watching Elgort strut, prance around and mime badly to some killer tracks annoyed the hell out of me. I was actually wondering whether I was going to be able to put up with this cocky pillock.

However, as soon as the heist began and the chase was on, my griping subdued.

The car chases were exhilarating and tense with some brilliantly choreographed stunts and set pieces.

I was more empathetic towards Baby after we delved into his past and discovered the reason for the “hum and the drum” (Or should I say the reason for his insufferable need to have a music device plugged in his ear holes).

Baby’s relationship with his deaf foster father Joseph (CJ Jones – if you have a spare minute, read up on this guy. Inspirational) allowed the Fault in the Stars man to work his charm and charisma.

The supporting cast was an incredibly talented mixed bag. What the hell was Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers doing in this?!

Kevin Spacey was fantastic. Not enough of the big man. He almost stole every scene he featured in.

I was a little disappointed at how small Jon Bernthal’s (The Walking Dead) role was. I kept waiting for his character to return. Reduced to nothing more than a measly cameo.

Eiza Gonzalez was mere eye candy. Nothing more than a trigger to set off the tumultuous partnership of Jon Hamm’s (Mad Men) Buddy and Jamie Foxx’s Bats.

It made a change to see Don Draper go dark. Hamm nailed it. BUT in the battle of scene stealers, Foxx won the prize. He was menacing and brought uneasy tension to the piece. He channelled a lot of Motherf*cker Jones (Horrible Bosses fans, am I right?). The cogs always turning.

Lily James (Cinderella) was a little lost in the mix. Some of the dialogue didn’t quite come off as clever or as cool as it should have BUT the pair had great chemistry.

I felt their blossoming romance was rushed to catch up with Baby’s ongoing drama. I would have been happy to have a little more time spent on them. Anything over Elgort’s song and dance numbers.

The pair’s relationship had an echo of Scott Pilgrim as they bonded over music. Steven Price’s selections were a mad mix of hits from T-Rex to Golden Earring. Hell yes!

BUT despite my grumblings about their rushed romance, I did like the conflicted Bonnie and Clyde set up as Baby’s life of crime reached breaking point.

And this is where the film really won me over (as did the protagonist).

The quick witted humour, along with Bill Pope’s glossy cinematography, made this seem like an easy going crime caper.

Especially when one of the criminals made an almighty howler with the Michael Myers masks. Brilliant.

BUT the second half of the film (without spoiling anything) took a darker and more violent turn than I expected. The light super cool tone completely changing.

I should have realised that Wright was never shy of blood and gore. I forgot how brutal Hot Fuzz was (Man, I love that film. Need to watch it again . . . Moving on).

I was hooked. Hell, there were even a few twists along the way.

It was a fast and furious riot that made up for a stumbling and predictable middle act.

And by the time the credits rolled, I actually walked out the cinema smiling.

3.5/5

PLEASE ENJOY THIS KILLER TRACK (AND MY FAVOURITE) FROM THE ECLECTIC MOVIE SOUNDTRACK

 

*NEW* INSURGENT REVIEW *NEW*

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Dull-vergent returns. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice . . . Well, shame on me again, I guess.

Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.

Well, it killed the time. But would I watch it again? Would I recommend it? Ah, no.

I haven’t read the Divergent books (and I’m certainly not going to after this) BUT I actually liked the first feature film adaptation. It was racy, engaging if a little predictable. BUT as I said back then, if there was going to be a sequel, they would need to take it up a notch.

It was watchable enough but if anything, Insurgent took the wind out of Divergent’s sails. It was slow, overlong and cliched as hell. It only really got going in the last twenty minutes. Not good enough.

It doesn’t help that the silver screen has been flooded with endless teen bestseller adaptations since The Hunger Games. These films really need to hit the ground running or at least offer something different to make a memorable impression. The Maze Runner had messed up zombies and a MAZE! Hunger Games had . . . Jennifer Lawrence (What?!)

Insurgent offered the same old re-tread like its predecessor but with weaker results. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad.

Shailene Woodley and Theo James still have cracking chemistry and kept the spark going. I just could have done with a little less schmaltz. Woodley seems to be shaking off the squeaky clean image and with that severe haircut, she certainly proved she can play the strong lead well. Okay, her haircut wasn’t that bad. I just wondered why the hell she did it.

The running sequences didn’t really grab me as much as Divergent. A chase involving a train certainly kept me quiet for a few minutes and there were some decent set pieces. BUT the story line and characters really hampered this yarn a treat.

Ansel Elgort’s Caleb grated against me. His constant indecisiveness was infuriating. Standing around aimlessly while watching his little sister being throttled and hung out of a train. Laughable. And when he finally strikes, he hit a semi-conscious Factionless with a lead pipe. Tut tut tut.

Naomi Watts was wasted in her role. There was potential in exploring Four’s background but it didn’t really surmount to much. If not for a revelation in the film (Don’t worry – no spoilers here), I would have deemed Watts’ character unnecessary. Obviously she will have a more prominent role in the next installment, but here’s the thing Insurgent didn’t really make want to see the next one.

Miles Teller played the wise cracking Peter well. BUT that BACKSTABBER label was stamped so hard on his head that it wasn’t a surprise when he inevitably picked his moment of betrayal. As much as I didn’t mind seeing more of Teller, it was at the expense of Zoe Kravitz and Maggie Q who were virtually absent.

Jai Courtney provided a perfect rival to Four and brought some much needed tension. Kate Winslet played a hard ass as well as she could but there was only so much pouting you can do while looking angry and holding an iPad.

I was baffled with where this film was going. I thought during the closing minutes of Divergent that Bea was already running to the gates or outskirts of the compound (or whatever it was) and escaping. Yet in Insurgent, the gang are hiding and then going back. For what?

Some mumbo jumbo about a cryptic box that can only be opened by a (Surprise, surprise!) Divergent. A box that did absolutely nothing and supposedly contained a message from ‘The Others’. A message that was not worth the two hour wait.

The Matrix style piping with Trish’s Inception style dream sequences went on far too long and didn’t really do anything. I was disappointed after all the promise that Divergent suggested. It seemed to take a darker turn half way through which did pique my interest but then chickened out.

This really felt like a case of filler before the final Part 1 and Part 2 sequels. The cast do their best with the material and the special effects and set pieces did enough to pick up the lumbering pace BUT I would really have to think twice about venturing to the cinema to see the next part.

2.5/5

*THROWBACK REVIEW* MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN REVIEW

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DO. NOT. BOTHER.

Jason Reitman pens a delightfully dull and dreary commentary on the woes of social media.

Certainly not what I expected. Which worked in one aspect BUT failed on so many others.

The recent spate of trailers seemed to market this as a romantic drama seen through the platform of social media i.e. Facebook, Tumblr, etc.

BUT all I got was a slow, dark and sombre social drama that made some fair points but didn’t really back them up with any substance, tension or story.

Merely a movie of moments. A shame considering the talent.

So what is it about? A group of high school teenagers and their parents attempt to navigate the many ways the Internet has changed their relationships, self-image and how they communicate.

It really does sound as boring as you think. BUT it’s not a complete disaster.

The opening sequence was quite strange. A visually stunning but unnecessary tracking shot of a satellite travelling through the solar system. Eric Steelberg’s cinematography was superb (in this sequence). The wonderful Emma Thompson provided her vocal gravitas to the appropriately titled character, “Narrator”.

However, she soon blathers on about how sounds and videos were recorded in a capsule during 1977 to send out as a welcome message to extra terrestrials. Interesting. But what is the relevance?

None, apparently. It didn’t really fit in with the message or the tone of the film. Granted, the songs and messages highlighted how far we have progressed technologically to a minor extent BUT we still haven’t contacted extra-terrestrials. That we know of. If there are any. If we care. And if there are, they obviously didn’t like our noises.

BUT what does that have to do with social media impacting the everyday?

It felt a little pretentious for my liking and certainly didn’t get things going.

It eventually zipped along and was watchable. BUT the story lines and content just didn’t have enough for the two hour running length.

The only statement that I felt Reitman made well was the desensitisation and over-sexualisation of teenagers.

The scene in which a group of 16 year old cheerleaders are talking about how many men they have slept with and supposed sex acts they have inflicted was uncomfortable to listen to BUT all too true.

The fact that it is so easy for young teens to access porn and sexual images in this digital age paired with their ever-increasing hunger to grow up quicker was and still is a scary prospect.

Olivia Crocicchia was very good as the deluded Hannah Clint. A ruthless and overly ambitious young lady who will do what it takes to get what she wants. Her relationship with her mother Judy Greer was captured well and it was interesting to see the gradual change from something that seemed so innocent as a little modelling site soon becoming something much more.

Some of the story lines excelled, while others merely gave us a taster and then fizzled out into nothing really.

Kaitlyn Dever and Ansel Elgort played the outsider high school couple well, I suppose. BUT it wasn’t original or interesting. Their story line was a little stale. Hiding in the library and sneaking out to cuddle by a waterfall or river. I can’t remember. Lost interest. The closing minutes certainly came to a tense, if predictable, finale.

Jennifer Garner played Dever’s overprotective mother perfectly. Not enough of her. I was determined to see if there was more to her obsession with controlling and knowing her daughter’s whereabouts.

BUT no! The world is a terrible place and the Internet is worse. Her embargoes on the household Wi-Fi and mobile phone tracking apps certainly hinted at the cons of digital gadgetry.

The whole fear of online predators is still an important issue. Even more so with trolling and cyberbullying. BUT Reitman doesn’t even bother penning a story line featuring this shocking new development.

The whole affair felt quite dated. This would have been a lot more hard-hitting a decade ago, to be honest, when instant messaging and blogging had first popped up in the domain.

Dean Norris’ football loving dad arguing with Englert for dropping out of the team after his mum flew the coop was predictable guff. Englert’s video game obsession felt dated. I mean World of Warcraft is still a highly popular game BUT surely there’s a new one. Plus it wasn’t really explored that well.

J.K. Simmons was wasted in his role as the father in Elena Kampouris’ bulimic daughter story line. Her situation was one that should have been covered a little better. Hiding in her room trying not to eat while talking to online forums about fighting hunger pains was crazy.

Her story ended quite abruptly after hitting a crucial juncture and deserved more screen time, especially with vulnerable teens that are constantly battling with image and oversexualized music videos, media coverage and fashion magazines.

Adam Sandler was finally given another serious role and he did quite well but his character was so bland. The whole porn desensitising the average male debate was a valid point but who wants to see Mr Deeds getting hot and heavy while watching smut? Not me.

Reitman raised a good point in how teenage lads in particular will be looking for a particular woman after being subjected to such videos. Sandler’s son developing a crude taste for domination videos was a taboo that should have been explored. BUT Sandler’s character never confronts him properly about it.

In fact, he sees his son’s videos and has a bash himself. A little dark and comical BUT the tone didn’t really fit. I couldn’t tell how serious Reitman was trying to be. The film went too serious one second and satirical the next.

Sandler’s storyline was mediocre at best. It had a fair point about how couples lose intimacy and seek extra marital companionship online. The ease in what you can do on the Internet is a crazy and unsettling thing.

The affair sequences were certainly different BUT didn’t really amount to anything which was surprising, considering they “confronted” each other at the end. It just infuriated me because they seemed to blame their lost innocence from 9/11. Emphasizing how it changed everything.

I mean it could have been inappropriate timing that they changed as the world changed at that moment but I felt the reference lazy and unnecessary.

The sequences in which we see what people are texting, along with video inserts, was a nice touch. Especially when you see what people are texting about others who are in the same room.

BUT it’s hardly original. Hollyoaks milked that speech bubble text talk thing to death.

It made some good points BUT ones I’ve seen dealt with a whole lot better. It felt like a missed opportunity to expand, debate and explore new developments and how families are growing up with them.

It’s watchable BUT if you’re looking for hard-hitting, thought provoking Internet-related drama, I recommend Cyber Bully.

2.5/5 (Just)

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS REVIEW

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Maybe OK was what I will always say to these sort of films. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort bring to life a highly acclaimed bestseller making it an endearing drama and no doubt a teen weepie that will have people flooding to the cinema.

Now these sort of films never appeal to a cynic like myself but hey after all the films I assumed would be good, I went in open minded for a change and . . . not bad. Once I got over the fact that they are not Tris and Caleb Prior from the Divergent franchise, I could allow the pair to charm away. There is fantastic chemistry between the pair and their characters are very likeable. A topic like this is always difficult to convey and you can always imagine but never really know what these situations would be like.

Although the lingering subject of life and death is hovering above our young star crossed lovers, it is done with the right balance and generally in a light hearted and easy going fashion. It zips along with the odd plucking of the heart strings here and there. Elgort has proven that he will be one to watch. Finally awarded a big leading role, he has enough charisma and charm to pull it off. Woodley has proven her abilities before and plays her part to perfection. I fear the main battle with these films depends on how much you like the couple. This time around, you feel for them, you laugh, you cry with the inevitable lurking around the corner.

Nat Wolff provided the comic relief in Isaac, which I can see the irony in the name now. You can also feel for his frustrations and pain but his one liners and erratic behaviour helps break up the inevitable schmaltzy coming together of the loving couple. Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) plays the understanding mother part very well and there are some nice moments between her and Woodley. Not enough for me. The problem is that I always want to see the whole impact on the family, which is briefly looked at.

I will admit that that I haven’t read the book so I can’t make comparisons in that sense. One question *POSSIBLE SPOILER* was their excursion into Amsterdam in the book? I felt the excursion slowed down the film and although it made for some nice moments between Elgort and Woodley, it did drag a little bit for me and Willem Dafoe’s (Spiderman) hermit writer character was a little pointless and didn’t quite fit in the film for me. I understand he may have been a metaphor that everything is not always what you hope or expect but our leading characters are fully aware of that.

This is well acted and nicely done. To be honest, this follows the lines of Terms of Endearment and Steel Magnolias. If you love these sort of these films, then you will love this. I don’t think this will be splitting fans of the book but again that’s speculation. The way it was advertised, I expected this to be really sad and heartbreaking. Don’t get me wrong, the finale is well done and sad but it is just the story of two people who found each other in all the craziness and madness of dealing with terminal illness.

I guess I wanted a little more on the impacts and what happened next and to be honest, Terms of Endearment is still the best film that tackles this story for me but the cast are great. Shame about Sam Trammell (True Blood) whose father figure was quite passive and anyone could have played him. But it is still a well acted, easy going film that zips along but still brings the odd tear. If you’re a unromantic cynic, then firstly what are you doing here but if you’re a cynic that can be persuaded, it is still rewarding and not bad. 3.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks 52 out of 188!