*NEW* READY PLAYER ONE REVIEW *NEW*

Spielberg is back baby!

But bigger and better?

When the creator of a virtual reality world (Mark Rylance – The BFG) called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.

An enjoyable romp. The man still knows how to deliver a blockbuster. Fantastic visuals, an entertaining premise, good fun BUT . . . NOT without its flaws.

We follow Tye Sheridan’s Wade (X-Men: Apocalypse) as he tries to break away from the hum drum life of “The Stacks”. A poverty stricken district constructed of caravans piled on top of each other.

Those caravans. Seriously, the Jenga style structure triggered my vertigo.

A futuristic cityscape set in the 2040s where people are more interested in escaping to the OASIS and their avatars than worry about the ever-expanding and overpopulated towns. A fitting statement if ever there was one.

BUT at that same stroke, Ready Player One really struck home with the gamer nerd in me and that sense of community and escapism that gaming can offer. A bit like the movie itself.

The visual effects were outstanding. The only problem was that there was so much going in one frame that there was TOO much going on. A mad car chase sequence hit me like a rainbow-infused punch. The colours, the energy. It was chaotic.

There was King Kong, Robocop, the Jurassic Park T-Rex. I didn’t know if I was still supposed to be watching Wade – Sorry, “Parzival” (His alias) razzing around in a DeLorean or not?

The puzzle solving was intriguing enough as Wave delved into the recesses of his childhood hero Halliday’s memories for clues to unlock another key to the OASIS. All archived in a library. Seriously, there wasn’t enough Mark Rylance. The Wayne World’s inventor was brilliant.

There was one level of the game that involved one of my favourite movies. The in-jokes and metatextual references had me in stitches. Obviously the rest of the audience weren’t fans as I laughed out loud at as “Parzival”‘s partner in crime, H unsuspectingly wondered into a certain room *cough* Room 237 *cough*

That sequence alone ticked all the boxes for me.

Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) was brilliant as Art3mis/Samantha. She had great chemistry with Sheridan and they madBe a great duo. That dance-off shouldn’t have worked as well as it did.

Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) was the epitome of a slimy corporate exec BUT despite his best efforts and Thanos-inspired avatar, I found him a little weak. And for a man hell bent on taking over the cyber world, he wasn’t very clued up on password protection.

I was disappointed at the lack of T.J. Miller. I know the guy has caused a bit of controversy in the press but the Silicon Valley star knows how to steal the show as Mendelsohn’s minion, I-R0K.

I was annoyed that we only saw his avatar. Bearing in mind that we got to see Wade’s band of loveable rogues.

The detail on the avatars was incredible; meshing in the actors traits and facial expressions perfectly.

NOW I’ve never read the book. I was only aware from the heavy PR that RPO revolved around teenage gamers fanboying over the 80s and tech. Despite the amazing visuals, endless 80s references and zippy pace, the film lost momentum as its reached it’s super corny finale.

It was far too schmaltzy and OTT for my liking. Tye Sheridan delivering a nauseating speech in leather-clad spandex? Meh. The Iron flippin’ Giant evaporating endless cannon fodder?! HELL YES! (What?!)

Come on, that is kinda cool.

BUT what did I expect? These are kid gamers taking on the world. If you keep that in mind, you might not be as disappointed by the finale as I was.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still riveting, engaging and filled with all sorts of nostalgia BUT the end game was a little rushed and tacky.

This won’t top Spielberg’s greats BUT this wasn’t his worst by a country mile.

Either way, it’s worth a watch at any cost.

3/5

*NEW* ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL REVIEW *NEW*

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A challenging dramedy in more ways than one. A promising cast reprieve a surprisingly patchy affair.

High schooler Greg (Thomas Mann), who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl (RJ Cryler), finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate (Olivia Cooke) who has just been diagnosed with cancer.

I’m not going to lie. I was left wanting and a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s highly watchable BUT the tone and pace was all over the place.

From the strange opening sequence, I was scratching my head. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with the Jesse Andrews novel. This film has certainly made me want to seek it out. Just to see if I was missing out on something.

The strange animation reminded me of a Wes Anderson pic. Never a bad thing. We watch as an animated Greg chomps spaghetti while the “hot girl from Pussy Riot” serenades him by playing the harp. In a nutshell, we were being introduced to the quirky inner workings of Greg’s mind. The social outcast. The narrator of the story.

Very strange. BUT intriguing. We watch this crafty chameleon who does his best to blend in with all the social groups; the drama people, the goths, etc. Just enough to keep everyone at bay. I could relate to Greg in more ways than one. Hiding in a film fortress with his “work colleague” Earl.

Thomas Mann was very good as Greg and delivered the role with enough wit, charm and charisma. It made for easygoing viewing as we delved into Greg’s set up. Unable to call Earl a friend with the fear he might reject the label.

Once Cryler was given the opportunity to shine, he delivered. It took a while for Earl to make a mark. Reduced to muttering the word “titties” BUT once the film got going, they made a great duo.

You may remember Olivia Cooke from the hit show, Bates Motel. She was fantastic as Rachel. She delivered a sterling performance and worked well with Mann. The pair had great chemistry.

I loved the classic film references. The nods to François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard ticked all the boxes for the cinephile in me. The funny play on titles was a nice touch. A Sockwork Orange being a particular highlight.

The film video segments reminded me very much of Be Kind Rewind. A surreal mish mesh of Gondry meets Anderson. Low budget indie madness. BUT unfortunately like it’s counterpart, it seemed to suffer from the same flaws.

The tone was very testing. Charming and funny in one instant with Greg’s verbal diarrhea inevitably putting him into more awkward situations and then dreadfully slow and dark the next. Most notably when Rachel’s condition deteriorates.

There’s no easy way to capture an illness and the effects. It was a testing cross examination as we see Rachel’s smile and health fade. Greg doing everything he can to try and keep things quirky and light.

The hour marker certainly took the easygoing pace down a notch as tempers flared and decisions were made. It was acted well and made for engaging drama in parts. BUT the pace hampered an intriguing piece.

What didn’t help was the fact that the little films took the attention away from the actual story between the three friends. I understand that the film making was Greg’s way of coping with life BUT it went on too long. And the final film the pair made for Rachel was a load of rubbish in my opinion.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon didn’t make full use of the fantastic supporting cast. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) didn’t do a bad job as the chilled history teacher. An incident involving the lads and some soup led to some funny moments.

Molly Shannon’s cougar making advances at the two young men was a mixed bag for me. I found the whole thing strangely uncomfortable. Supplying them with booze and flirting with Greg. Weird.

I wish there was more of Bobb’e J. Thompson as Earl’s brother, Derrick. And cudos to Karriem Sami who managed to make a memorable impression in 30 seconds as the limo driver. That’s all I’m saying on that one. Oh and the Hugh Jackman scene. Brilliant.

Connie Britton was wasted in her role as Greg’s Mom. I know that the parents were never to be the focal point of this piece. BUT with such talented actors portraying good characters, it would have been nice to seen more of them. She set Greg’s story in motion and then only reappeared in the final scenes.

Nick Offerman’s trippy tenured father was very hit and miss for me. Offering a cat to console Greg as he attempts to break bad news . . . Yes. Waffling on about obscure grub. NOT so much.

The closing moments made for tough viewing. Even for the cynic in me. It struck a lump in my throat as Greg struggles with school, life and the possibility of losing a friend he never expected to have.

I felt the final third got increasingly serious and killed the buzz that had helped zipped the film along. And the ending was quite abrupt for me. It just ended.

BUT luckily, good characters, great acting and good moments still make this one to watch. BUT the strange style and uneven pacing hampered something that could have been so much more.

3/5

OUIJA REVIEW

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I wish they could have used the Ouija board to summon something better.

The wait continues. Bar a few jumpy moments; another poorly written, schlocky horror film hits the big screen. Is it time that Hollywood give up the ghost(s)?

Unfortunately using a low budget amateur cast with up and coming newbies meant one thing. That this film made money. Which means . . . More of this horrific bilge to come.

So what’s it all about? A group of friends must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board.

Apparently, according to the studio release. I didn’t see anyone confronting their fears. Just running around aimlessly or screaming every 20 seconds (like the annoying spectator at the cinema).

The concept is hardly original but if executed properly, the possibilities are endless. If not? Well you get this.

I was really disappointed. It was the perfect platform for a virtually new and unknown cast to make a name for themselves.

It was great to see Olivia Cooke (Emma Decody from Bates Motel) get a leading role. Her supporting turn in The Quiet Ones gave me high hopes.

She does her best but her character is so flat and uninteresting. It feels like she is sleepwalking through the role. And at times she even sounds like it.

The characters were really unmemorable. I had honestly forgotten their names as soon as they appeared. I had to ask my mate who had no recollection either; merely “Bates Bird” and “that one eyed guy from Percy Jackson (Bradley Smith)”.

If not for the jumpy bits, this would have got a zero. For all my cynical meandering about the predictable checklist that this film churned through, there were several moments that got me good and proper.

It helped to have a ridiculously loud cinema sound system and a screaming spectator twitching every two minutes (No, it wasn’t us).

It took a good 40 minutes before things really got going. That’s half of the film. It felt longer than 89 minutes. The story felt like it was going through the motions.

Childhood friends play with Ouija board. Childhood friend decides to play it again. Dies. 30 minutes of dull dialogue with the gang moping around and grieving before finding said board and deciding to play it. Brilliant. NOT!

I don’t believe in the whole Ouija board thing. My brother did one before and felt that the scenes where they used the planchette (the little triangular board. I did my research. Not just strung together, you know) and asked the questions was creepy and quite accurate. To be honest, how could they get that bit wrong?

I don’t think writer/director Stiles White had seen the British equivalent Long Time Dead. That was a disaster BUT a damn sight better than this.

The characters hardly had my empathy but at least I wanted to see what happened to them. Once the Ouija stuff began, it was all the same old guff. Things moving in the background. Doors slamming. Oven hobs coming on (For some reason).

It was only as the film was ending where I got into it. It was racy, frantic and jumpy. The shadow moving on its own accord. The demonic child (Sierra Heuermann) and mother (Claudia Katz) fighting to claim victims. It finally seemed to be going somewhere. Only for it to end so abruptly and flatly that I felt like I wasted my time.

And of course; to add to my frustrations Ouija left it all open for . . . What do you know? Another installment.

Lin Shaye (Insidious) was the most memorable supporting character in the five minutes she was given. That doesn’t say a lot considering her character was unoriginal and derivative in the first place.

The wait goes on for a genuinely tense, atmospheric horror film.

Stocky, generic and bland character sleepwalk through a dull and predictable story line. If not for the jumpy scenes, I would have bailed out.

1.5/5

THE JUDGE REVIEW

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Time for a bit of R&R

Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall team up to tackle the courtroom in a predictable but highly watchable drama.

So what’s it about? Big city lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr) returns to his childhood home where his father (Robert Duvall), the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

I was surprised at the flogging this film got. I was pleasantly surprised. But then these days, I go into a cinema with such dread it’s hard not to be.

Now the first 30 minutes had me looking at the little hands on my watch. It was slow and predictable with RDJ “Starking” it up. Some people will disagree but I’m sorry. He was Tony Stark with a law degree. A fast talking ruthless lawyer with no respect for the courtroom or his peers. A perfect case example being when he openly urinates on one of his opposing counsels, ol’ Bernard from The Santa Clause, David Krumholtz.

“Did that just happen?”, laughs Downey Jr. Unfortunately, yes. And boy, has Krumholtz put on the pounds.

But once Hank returns home and reunites with his estranged father, the iconic actor that is Robert Duvall, tempers rise, old wounds are re-opened and the movie hits its stride. Duvall and Downey Jr are brilliant together and really bring their A-game to deliver a decent pairing.

It’s all a little predictable with the pair first sparring, barely speaking. That is until the murder charge. What helps is that despite it being arguably a TV movie story line, the two Roberts prove what good acting can deliver. Interest. That’s not to say that there wasn’t revelations along the way. Some worked well. Others did not. But I won’t divulge details.

There were certainly some heartfelt moments between father and son but there were also a number of missed opportunities that could have made this more than just watchable.

Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) plays her part well as the old high flame who stayed home. She has good chemistry with RDJ which helps make their inevitable and corny relationship sequences watchable. The outcome, however, was so predictable and all a little too easy with no real friction.

The same could be said for Hank’s fractious relationship with his daughter (Emma Tremblay – The Giver). The pair worked well together and it would have been nice to see more of that but it’s all resolved so easily with a trip to Grampas.

Billy Bob Thornton was, to be expected, very good as the snake toothed Dwight Dickham (I don’t think there was supposed to be an intentional pun in the surname). However, Thornton’s role was limited to mere grimaces and the odd jibe which was a shame considering the actor and potential that the rivalry could have delivered.

Especially after his turn in Fargo, this role was ripe for making a worthy adversary to RDJ but the film very much focuses on the father/son dynamic. A shame because by the end you realised that anyone could have played the role.

Vincent D’Onofrio (Law and Order: Criminal Intent) was quite good as the older brother, Glen. However I wish more was made out of Hank and Glen’s rocky relationship. A revelation that is revealed later on could have been a perfect opportunity for a lot more confrontation but was (again!) resolved so easily with Glen taking the higher ground.

Jeremy Strong (Zero Dark Thirty) was brilliant as Dale. A brother with special needs and a passion for 8mm film-making. It worked well and added something to the brothers dynamic. It also allowed for some entertaining but also endearing moments. Entertaining in the fact that Dale has no filter and tells the truth when he really shouldn’t.

A subplot involving Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) went no where. And to be honest was completely unnecessary. It had the potential to be made into something much more but was merely a running joke. A joke that wasn’t that funny and didn’t fit in with the tone of the film.

The courtroom scenes were well done but didn’t quite hit the heights that you wanted. When Duvall’s character is finally cross examined, there is a lot more tension and drama to be had. Dax Sheppard (Without A Paddle) did a convincing turn as the useless aid, throwing up before every court session to fight the nerves.

That was the issue for me. It tried to be light and comical in one instant, then dark and dramatic in another and it didn’t really excel as well as you would hope at either.

It’s well acted, watchable and certainly hits home by the closing moments. JUST . . .

Don’t JUDGE (what?) it by it’s overlong running time, there is still plenty to be had in watching two fantastic actors do what they do best. I just wish they had a better story line and script to work with.

BUT still worth a look.

The jury has reached a verdict 3/5

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION REVIEW

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Trans-Bore-Mers: Age of The Extinct franchise. Michael Bay is back with more bang, more bucks and more . . . of the same old monotonous, mechanical overlong drivel.

Raking in close to a billion dollars, I am lost for words. You know you’re onto a loser when Mark Wahlberg can’t even save the day or make really bad lines good.

To be honest, I’m not the biggest Transformers fan. I felt the original was overhyped and took me a couple of viewings to get into it. I actually enjoyed the second instalment which was heavily panned and the third . . . well, the action was good and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley . . . wow! What?

Now to be honest, the opening half hour was actually not that bad. It was typical Bay; clichéd, corny, OTT, explosions everywhere but enough to keep you glazed over and attentive plus it was funny (for the right reasons? Meh). A couple of surprise twists involving some characters was unexpected but watchable. The idea of all Transformers being hunted down was a decent concept.

The 3D is fantastic . . . for the first 40 minutes then it seems to disappear. All the stuff that had popped out or flew across the screen vanished. The special effects were outstanding anyway but for once, I thought this could be a film that proves that 3D is not just a gimmick. Alas, it was not to be. Bay cannot be challenged on his visual mastery but when it comes to pace, characters and story, well . . .

After two hours, I was asleep. If not for Stanley Tucci’s egotistical demented take on the late Steve Jobs, I would have been out the door much sooner. Once you’ve seen Optimus smash up a dozen robots/buildings, it gets repetitive really fast. A couple of awesome bad ass moments from Prime does not excuse the fact that Bay has nothing else to offer.

The problem with these giant robot blockbusters is that what the hell are humans are supposed to do? Apparently scream and moan at each other. It would have been nice to see the Autobots not cause as much as destruction as their foes . . . or least try.

Kelsey Grammer proved to be quite sinister and badass. The only problem (apart from the fact the older he looks, the more he becomes The Prospector from Toy Story 2) is that his character is pushed into the background.

Titus Welliver (Gone Baby Gone) played a piece of work until the mad-dash finale that seemed to throw everything but the kitchen sink. Marky Mark and his funky bunch of young up and comers were increasingly irritating and clichéd as the film dragged on.

Wahlberg does his best but trying to make lines about spaceship insurance and being an inventor and having to invent not sound terrible was always going to be a challenge. He might as well have said, “I’m a peacock. You gotta let me fly”. The overprotective father spiel is old hat and beefing it up with Jack Reynor’s (Delivery Man) younger cocky Irish Seth Rogen looking boyfriend just came off hammy.

It was great to see the pretty Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel) get a bigger platform but to play another troublesome teenage daughter again? Not so much. Screaming and complaining about her father all the way through was disappointing.

Also an elongated joke revolving how the young couple came to meet was stupid and a little dodgy. I mean Reynor’s character carrying a Romeo and Juliet statute in his wallet? Really? What was that about?

Sophia Myles was wasted as a geological scientist. I mean, to be frank, her character was pointless. The only human actor to get out of this mess Scott-free would be the legendary T. J. Miller (Silicon Valley) as Wahlberg’s comic sidekick. A much needed boost in the endless drivel of predictable hokum.

The proof was in the pudding in how Bay had little to offer in story by the fact that Megatron is back yet again. Granted, it was clever how it was incorporated into the little story there was. The Autobots heralded a great voice cast including the likes of John Goodman, Ken Wantanabe and John DiMaggio (Bender from Futurama) but not even they could make some of the leaden lines jump off the page. Shame.

The jokes were flat and so OTT that I found myself shaking my head. I mean the sequence with Tucci and Bingbing Li kung fu fighting their way across Hong Kong felt like a drawn out live action cartoon skit. And Megatron demanding his minions find his seed was . . . just . . . oh my!

I mean, let’s be honest, Transformers is not that sort of film. It’s big, dumb and full of – robots. But it can be a whole lot shorter with more interesting characters and for once, maybe it should take itself a little more seriously because it’s getting ridiculous now.

One for the scrap heap? It’s in the crusher, waiting to be crushed but at the moment, my hand is just hovering over the button.

If there are going to be two more sequels (God help us), Bay better find his A-game fast!

2/5

Currently ranked 142 out of 197!

THE QUIET ONES REVIEW

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The Quite . . . Rubbish Ones, really. A real shame, a rebooted Hammer brings us a jumpy, if tragically predictable and disappointing affair.

With the inevitable tag line, “Based on actual events”, we follow an Oxford University professor and a team of students in the 1970s as they conduct an experiment on a young girl who is believed to be possessed with a demonic force. I had so much hope for this. To be honest, horror films of late have hit an all time low, in every aspect, but the main one being scares.  I was relieved (how wrong I was) when I heard this little demon was created by the producers of the Woman in Black. A genuine suspenseful film that told a story and had scares. I mean it wasn’t that scary but the tension and performances were fantastic.

I hoped with the charismatic Jared Harris (Mad Men) at the helm of this low budget British horror, there could be something but alas it was not to be. It’s not a complete write off. I felt Sam Claflin (Hunger Games: Catching Fire) was a very likeable lead as our conflicted hero. Olivia Cooke (you may remember her from the inaccurate but surprisingly watchable hit, Bates Motel) was fantastic as the vulnerable victim. You do actually care what happens to the pair. The opening half hour builds up the suspense and sets the premise quite well. The unexpected jump here and there kept me on my toes. It made me for watchable viewing. You felt for Cooke’s character as she is interrogated like a Guantanamo Bay victim; forced to stay awake with the endless droning of Slade. I mean, come on it’s bad enough at Christmas.

The sultry Erin Richards with her diva-ish antics is easy on the eyes but nothing else. In terms of story, there isn’t much of one and when plot points are revealed, it’s quite obvious and uninteresting, most notably *FLASH! SPOILER ALERT! SKIP PAST PARAGRAPH IF INTERESTED IN VIEWING* on the reveal of a former patient’s identity. All the build up and flicking back was merely a device to spew up some much needed scares. Where the pace went along quite well, it meandered by the hour marker. Harris is entertaining, if incredibly creepy as his intent to disclaim the supernatural pushes him to the brink. It inevitably occurs in one creepy house. It was nice to see the film try and recreate the old school horror but that is soon thrown out of the window in one scene as we get a handheld camera sequence. Really? I mean, okay, Claflin is carrying a big arse camera but the effect still reeks of Paranormal Activity. Come on, we’ve had a franchise of that. BE DIFFERENT!

There’s enough tension to get the cheeky nibble on your nails or excuse to look at your mate to see if they’re scared, while waiting for impending jump moment. However, it all builds up to the same old guff with the expected, but still makes you bloody jump, last second scare. Once it’s all done, you sit back and think it wasn’t that scary. Not going to be dashing in the house and flicking on lights. It’s been done to death time and time again. Need a break altogether from this genre. Wait for us to miss these or . . . learn from them and make something much better because I know we can. Come on. 2.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks #120 out of 162!