*NEW* 50 SHADES OF GREY REVIEW *NEW*

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I’d rather look at 50 different shades of grey than endure this again.

Well, that’s what I thought I was going to say. Yeah, I can’t believe I watched it either. What did the Mad Movie Ranter make of the highest earning controversial adult movie of 2015?

In a nutshell, I didn’t mind it.

Literature student Anastasia Steele’s (Dakota Johnson) life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).

After all the negative press, Twitter bashing and that massive Razzie collection, I kept thinking to myself “Am I missing something here?”. I found this kinky little love story quite watchable. The two leads had great chemistry. The soundtrack was excellent.

Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography was hypnotic and director Sam Taylor Johnson dealt with the subject matter tastefully. And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

Scandalous? Outrageous? Not at all. Was that the problem?

I will admit I’ve never read the books. And I don’t intend to. I made the mistake of buying them as a gift for my mother completely unaware that they were essentially “book porn”. A mistake that will forever haunt me. However, 50 Shades bookworms (and Mum) gave me a little context as I prepared myself. And to be honest, it wasn’t what I expected at all.

I thought Dakota Johnson played the naive and impressionable Anastasia perfectly. Her first encounter with the mysterious Mr Grey made for watchable viewing. I wasn’t sure if Jamie Dornan would deliver (after all the rumoured names attached to the role) BUT he handled it with plenty of charm and charisma. I was only familiar with the chap from his killer role in the BBC hit show The Fall. Considering he has a thick Irish accent, he mastered the American twang brilliantly.

At its core, it was a typical cheesy love story. BUT I’m happy to watch a movie like this if the couple are engaging enough. Luckily the pair’s chemistry kept things very watchable. The whole girl falls for wealthy businessman spiel has been done to death BUT of course, there was a slight twist on it all. Because Mr Grey has a secret. Hidden in the many rooms of his lavish penthouse suite.

“I want to show you my playroom”. An odd request from the mysterious millionaire. An innocent response from the naive Anastasia, “Like your X-Box and stuff?” and I was intrigued.

I thought the S&M stuff was handled delicately as Grey shared his seedy secret. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) and writer Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr Banks) slowly introduced it into the mix as their romance blossomed. Hardly controversial or sordid. Is that why people hated it because it wasn’t rude and filthy enough? There were some raunchy moments as Anastasia was blind folded and strapped up. And Miss Johnson certainly wasn’t that shy in getting her kit off.

It was an interesting contrast seeing Anastasia’s naivety of the situation. Finding Grey’s obsession a mere game. Not fully understanding that he’s only giving her a taster. The contract meeting to keep their relationship undisclosed was laughable in its own right. BUT the fact Anastasia doesn’t take it that seriously can only spell disaster.

Apart from the odd sex scene, their romance chugged along as Grey shared his rich lifestyle with Anastasia and even introduced her to his foster family. My main quibble was that the supporting cast were wasted. A shame considering the talent; Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist), Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) and Callum Keith Rennie (Memento).

Their characters were far too weak and merely there to break up the pair fooling around. I’m aware that they may feature more in the upcoming sequels. BUT they didn’t really make much of an impression for their first outing and Rita Ora looked like she was in the wrong movie.

Apart from that, I wasn’t really bored. The pace didn’t test. The soundtrack was great (Something else somebody bought for their mum). Featuring chart hits from The Weekend and Ellie Goulding. The closing moments certainly spiced things up as Grey’s inability to share and connect, along with his kinky fixation, continued to forge cracks in their fragile relationship.

I know there was a little backlash regarding a scene involving a slap BUT I thought it raised an interesting argument between the pair and attempted to question this S&M taboo. If anything, I was a little bit annoyed because we were starting to unearth a little more into Grey’s past, the pair had a massive fight and then it just ended. Rather abruptly.

Of course, more is to follow. And despite such low ratings, it was one of the highest earning R-rated movies of the year and earned a sequel. One I might actually be tempted to see. I don’t think they could have made the film any cruder because then it would have been a different kind of adult movie altogether. If you know what I mean.

I felt the pair had better chemistry than Kunis and Tatum in Jupiter Ascending and to be honest, in comparison to the other films that were nominated for the Razzies, this was a much better effort. Surprised, to say the least.

3/5

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*NEW* BILL REVIEW *NEW*

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The Horrible Histories team hit the big screen at last! Shame, it didn’t live up to the hype.

What really happened during Shakespeare’s ‘Lost Years’? Hopeless lute player Bill Shakespeare (Matthew Baynton) leaves his home to follow his dream.

“A time of war and plague. BUT mainly war”. From the opening credits, I knew what I was in for. A silly adventure. Not a bad thing by any means. BUT it was always going to suffer tough comparisons to the award winning BBC TV show Horrible Histories. Which tragically it falls short of.

“People will remember the name Shakespeare . . . Twenty years from now”.

Matthew Baynton was great as Shakespeare. Bumbling and baffling away as he desperately tries to hone in his craft. Well, whatever craft he decides to be interested in at the time to avoid getting a job. Martha Howe-Douglas played the part of Shakespeare’s long suffering wife well as she endures another crazy whim as Bill seeks London for fame and fortune.

I couldn’t believe that Damian Lewis had a cameo as Sir Richard Hawkins. Professional thief and “royal pain in the bum hole”. The only problem was that his character didn’t really do anything and spent the rest of the movie in a cell. Shame. Helen McCrory may have looked the part as Queen Elizabeth I. Hideously caked in make up BUT she wasn’t really that memorable or funny for that matter.

The real stars was the Histories team yet again. Simon Farnaby used to annoy me in the series BUT I have to say he was fantastic as the neglected Earl of Crawley (Croydon!). Jim Howick was superb as Christopher Marlowe. His inability to deliver a “Your mum” joke was hilarious. Uttering a gag at all the wrong times and in the completely wrong context.

Ben Willbond was brilliant as King Phillip II of Spain. He camped it up a treat. He stole the scene every time. In one moment, the mad monarch was slaying oranges with his sword. A lady in waiting asks him the score. And with a bemused grin, he looks to the camera and simply says, “Juice”.

It was easygoing fun watching Bill get thrown out of his lute band Mortal Coil. His extreme lute solo was hilarious. His introduction to London was very Pythonesque. It was gritty and filthy with people being mugged, stabbed or gobbing on the streets. Delightful. The “Bring Out Your Dead” joke in full flair. The collector even tries to take one of Bill’s mates in an “emotional farewell” after being stabbed.

The bum jokes and endless slapstick gags delivered the odd chuckle BUT it soon got repetitive. Once you seen one peasant hit on the head with a stick, you seen it all. However, the pace did drop in places. For every good gag, there were several duds.

I loved the kid friendly Python vibe from the Earl of Croydon using his own servant as a human shield to evade mugging to King Phillip’s check-in at customs on the beaches of Dover. Cracking stuff.

The closing moments were very hit and miss. The series of unfortunate misunderstandings musical number was a bit of a dud. While the little Shakespeare references were spot on. “Tis the play that’s the thing. You know. Bling and ting”.

I can’t believe I’m saying this BUT it all got a little too silly for my liking. I know that this was a kids film BUT what I liked about Horrible Histories was the fact that it could amuse anyone. The gags, especially in the finale, were definitely aimed more at the little ‘uns.

Once Prince Philip had revealed himself with his fake mustache over his real tash for the umpteenth time, I could feel my eyes wondering to the little hands on the clock. Too patchy. Very much like their Sky puppet show Ponderland.

It was just a shame that the transition from 30 minute TV specials to 90 minute features may have been a bridge too far. BUT fans of the HH franchise and newbies will still enjoy this mad little movie. Maybe it was a case of too high an expectation for me.

3/5

SPOOKS: THE GREATER GOOD REVIEW

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One of the best British dramas takes to the silver screen? Was it needed? Did it succeed? Or should the BBC have let old dogs lie?

I won’t hide my bias. I am a huge Spooks fan. It came around the same time as 24, managed to stand its own, and became one of my favourite TV shows. But very much like 24, it was never afraid to wipe out main characters, deliver twists and turns every week, tense cliffhangers and nail biting cryptic dialogue between fellow spies and high ranking officials.

It may have lost the battle with 24 but certainly lasted the war. 24 stumbled at series 6 and never really recovered. It improved. While Spooks only really tested me at Series 8 of a 10 series run!

The last two series did feel like old hat. What was hard hitting soon became predictable and a retread of stronger story lines from earlier series. I guess there is only so much you can do with a spy drama. But the final series delivered a heartbreaking and satisfying finale.

Four years after the hit series came to a close, we have a movie. A close that was long overdue as the show seemed to be heading down the road of mediocrity. A fitting ending that wrapped things up but subtly suggested that a return wasn’t out of the question.

So here we are. Did I sigh? Denounce the movie gods? Nope. I felt excited. My love for Spooks not quite over and after watching this film . . . I can firmly say it’s still not.

The opening sequence set the tone. Tension bubbling on the back burner. Even if I found the dialogue a little flat and cliched. Spies ironically playing the game ‘I Spy’ while the “cocky” CIA operatives chat up the only British totty (Tuppence Middleton) in the surveillance squad.

However, my little niggles were soon pushed to the back of my head (momentarily) by the introduction of one of my TV icons, head of MI5 security services, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth).

As soon as Firth entered the scene, the fan boy excitement was back. Offering a pillow to a systems analyst who had time to rest his feet on his desk.

It wasn’t long before something was afoot and we were thrown straight into the action as a terrorist (Elyes Gabel) escapes custody during a routine handover.

Racy, tense and very much in the style of the Bourne films. But let’s not forget Spooks were there first! They even threw in the infamous TV title sequence.

I will emphasize that the pace really is put on the back burner. It seemed to chug along after a promising opening and Pearce facing termination after making a judgement call.

The bureaucratic sniping and dealing with the “red tape” spiel did feel like the Spooks of old. Unfortunately, that meant it was dreadfully predictable. However, that was all relieved by some cracking performances from some old faces (Oh yes) and a lot of new ones.

Tim McInnerny (Blackadder) was superb as Mace. Just as callous and manipulative as ever. The introduction of David Harewood (Homeland) and Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) was a mixed bag for me. Harewood played the uptight Warrender perfectly. A weaselly two faced mediator desperate to keep both agencies at bay.

The only cast member that annoyed me was Jennifer Ehle. Normally I don’t mind her but what the hell was her accent supposed to be? Her twang (even though she was meant to be English) really grated against me. It was like she was trying to do an impression of the Queen. Terrible.

Disgraced, Pearce must look to the only person who can help him. The agent who he removed from MI5. Cue . . . No, not Matthew Macfadyen! I know. Gutted, too.

It’s only Jon Snow, of course. Kit Harington literally hits the ground running making a memorable entrance into the mix. Smashing through a cafe window to escape some Russians. Never found out why he was running? A passing comment would have been nice after an entry like that.

Harington was very good. The sulky scorned spy role suited him and he worked well with Firth. Their relationship may have been a little cliched (and strikingly similar to Kingsmen) as Pearce knew his father who died in a botched operation.

BUT it was still interesting to see their already fractious bond tested to the max. And yes, Harrington’s character knows nottthhinggg. One for the Game of Thrones fans.

Harington was the much needed catalyst to jump start this spluttering slow burner. Once he begins Borune-ing the place up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, I was hooked.

The airport rendezvous with Pearce was superb. Tense, suspenseful and every thing that won me over with Spooks the first time round. The numerous drop off points, the items of clothing with cryptic cards and the time frames. Brilliant.

At it’s best, it’s tense, dramatic with the odd shocker. But at it’s worst, it’s a little predictable and slow. The problem with Spooks is that you always know there is a bigger play. And the cogs are always turning. You can call things before they happen. That’s the problem after 10 series. It does kill the tension and some of the bigger reveals.

Firth was excellent as HP. Despite being integral to the plot, he does seem to be pushed into the background. A little disappointing. Harington’s Holloway is always at the forefront. Not a problem as he proves to be a worthy addition to the Spooks set.

However, Firth still gets his moment to shine and when he does, it’s great. After all the sorrow and tough decisions the man has to make, you really hope that there can be some solace for him.

I don’t think it’s a must for people who haven’t seen Spooks. There are a lot of new faces. When the old ones appear, you get the picture. I won’t say who, Spooks fans. Don’t worry. But there isn’t as many as I hoped.

And Guppy from Casualty has come a long way. Game of Thrones, A Most Violent Year and now this? He was brilliant as the maniacal Qasim. His American accent was impeccable. Take lessons, Ms Ehle. Tuppence Middleton showed potential. I just wish her character wasn’t so bland. But then again Spooks fans, who will ever top Ros?

The film may have been patchy but the last 20 minutes still had me trying to connect the dots. Even if some twists worked and others didn’t, the closing scenes still got me. And Firth stole the show, allowing HP to show a little vulnerability. Cracking his cold demeanour for a one moment before shaking it off and vanishing like a ghost. A spook. Proving once again why his character will always be one of my favourites.

The ending may have been ambiguous but it confirmed one thing for me. I’m still not quite ready to let Spooks go just yet. The film format certainly didn’t kill the franchise. If anything, it has given me hope. A few tweaks on the plot and pacing and I’m happy for it to continue. Cue freeze frame. Black and white.

3.5/5

Also did anyone else feel the title made you want to do this?

FOCUS REVIEW

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The Fresh Prince does an American Hustle and it’s just as you expect.

Watchable but hardly memorable.

The allure of Margot Robbie almost made me lose my critical focus and the fact that beneath its easy going and glossy surface, there isn’t a lot going on here.

So what’s it all about?

Well this is a story all about how Will’s life as a con man got turned right upside down. And I’d like to take a minute. Just sit right there. And I’ll tell you how he got jiggy with a girl from Neighbours.

Okay, the serious blurb now. In the midst of veteran con man Nicky’s (Smith) latest scheme, a woman (Robbie) from his past (now an accomplished femme fatale) shows up and throws his plans for a loop.

First thing’s first. The positives. And there are lot more than I anticipated.

Will Smith is still a charismatic actor and knows how to boss the silver screen.

Only mark against him; I’m still waiting for another movie soundtrack.

Paired up with the beautiful Margot Robbie, we have gold. They have fantastic chemistry and certainly keep things watchable.

Their inevitable pairing was easy going viewing. Smith’s experienced hustler taking Robbie’s rookie under his wing as he shows her the tricks of the trade.

His network of hustlers and pick pockets was cleverly put together and certainly left me paranoid as hell, leaving the screen.

I couldn’t believe that Brennan Brown was in this. Brennan Brown? You don’t know? Come on. The Orange Wednesday guy!

Here’s a reminder . . .

Not enough of him. His role was way too small. Adrian Martinez (Yeah, the fat dude from Piranha 3DD) was quite funny but the rude pick up lines with Robbie fell faster than a lead balloon. I wish more of his screen time was given to the Orange guy.

It certainly killed the time and I wasn’t bored. As you know from my recent reviews, I’ve been having a bad run.

I say a bad run. A bad run of terrible movies.

Focus was very much in the reins of Ocean’s Eleven. Stylish with a great cast. MINUS the clever hustle. Xavier Grobet’s cinematography was a sight to behold. Let alone, Margot Robbie. Sorry.

Hey, ladies you got Will.

The only problem with these sort of films is that when you’ve watched 8 series of BBC’s Hustle, there aren’t many surprises that can get past you.

There was never really an air of danger around the couple.

AND even when things seem to heat up and trouble seemed to look a little more intense than an Asian guy that can’t grow a tash properly (I’ll get to that in one moment), you’ve always got that little niggle in the back of your head saying; “There’s another play going on here”.

Of course, there always is.

It was fun and charming. There was a sequence in which I felt things spiced up and looked to head in a different direction. Shame, it didn’t.

Now, the tash reference. It’s established quite early on that Will’s character is a hefty gambler. His ego is challenged quite easily by a drunk Asian businessman during an American football match.

BD Wong played the role brilliantly. A cat playing with a trapped mouse. Goading Will so easily into making a big mistake. It’s just a shame I couldn’t take him seriously with those strange patches on his upper lip. I don’t know what they were. BUT it was not a moustache.

Anyway, I think there was only one twist 30-odd minutes into the film that did stop me rambling.

From that, I hoped the film might do something. BUT it didn’t. This is where it lost points because the route it took (Although entertaining enough) was predictable as hell.

I hoped Robbie’s character wasn’t so weak. She seemed so strong willed and independent to begin with BUT falls into Smith’s arms too easily.

No, seriously. Every other scene. And they have a thing about not closing bedroom doors. My friend was complaining about it.

That’s the problem. If we have time to pick at stuff like that, the film is not doing it’s job of keeping our attention.

Rodrigo Santoro actually played his part well. He didn’t annoy the hell out of me. And it was good to see him fully clothed and without demented gold piercings.

The spanner in Robbie and Smith’s inevitable love machine.

Gerald McRaney (The Best of Me) was irritating. His sarcastic rambling came off unfunny and I found his character very unlikeable. A shame considering what a talented actor he is.

The closing act certainly made things a little more interesting.

BUT the end result was so predictable and surprisingly (the only surprise) open.

Just the two for the two of them. They could have made it if they tried with a smarter hustle and better dialogue.

It’s watchable BUT memorable? Sorry guys, it needed a little more focus (Puts on shades and walks out door) on substance, story and suspense.

2.5/5

THE WORST FILMS OF 2014 – PART TWO

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 I’ve already provided PART ONE from 20-11. NOW, it’s finally time for PART TWO with 10 – 1

SCALE: 10 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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10. WALKING WITH DINOSAURS: THE 3D MOVIE

I know, it’s a kid’s movie. BUT the dino facts were so patronising and stupid that it put me in a rage! I mean, come on! Kids can read. BUT the slow TRI-CER-A-T-OPS pronunciation was infuriating.

Plus they interrupted any interesting development in the dull by the numbers story line. The effects were good BUT the 3D? What 3D?

Not even John Lequizamo’s vocal work could save the day. In fact he annoyed the hell out of me. A talking crow narrating the history of the dinosaurs to a family?

LOGIC?! It just didn’t help the main character grated against me and the story was so predictable and corny that you lost interest.

The purpose of a family movie is to appeal . . . to a family. I don’t even think the little ‘uns would be fussed about watching this one.

Go watch the vastly superior award winning BBC documentary series instead!

 

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9. THE HARRY HILL MOVIE

Harry Hill making a movie? Any good? There’s only one way to find out?

NO! Hill tries to incorporate his TV Burp format to the big screen with a silly premise about taking his ill hamster to Blackpool.

Johnny Vegas does his best to get a chuckle as Abu the hamster. Abu? Wait. Isn’t that the name of another furry sidekick? Hmmm . . .

It was a shame with the talent at Hill’s disposal. Julie Walters, Matt Lucas, Jim Broadbent . . . Will from Inbetweeners.

For every good gag, Hill manages to balance it with a dozen duds.

It’s surreal, stupid and a mess to boot. I felt like I was on something watching it. Maybe I should have to try and understand how Hill thought this would be entertaining.

 

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8. DEVIL’S DUE

Another regurgitated, predictable, lazy, teen horror movie that desperately attempts to reap from the Paranormal Activity hype.

Paranormal Activity was a treat, an actual creepy, tension builder, that recreated and improved what the overrated handy-cam trend setter The Blair Witch Project set out.

A couple go on an exotic Brazilian honeymoon. They get lost. Get drunk. Suspicious taxi driver recommends strange place. Takes them before they can say, “Wait a minute”. And that last drink, oh that inevitable last drink. Instead of passing out on the bathroom floor, poor Sam gets impregnated by a Satanic cult.

The main issue is that the writers and producers either have never seen Rosemary’s Baby and inadvertently delivered a poor modern day rehash of it or they knew what they were doing which is even more tragic.

However, too many movies have popped their ugly heads out from this craze and I pray that this be the last but unfortunately the true horror is that it won’t be. (Just keep scrolling)

 

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7. THE LAST DAYS ON MARS

The . . . last film they should do about Mars. Oh my days. Shambolic. The pain endured watching this space turd was like having a xenomorph burst out of my chest and that still would have been more entertaining than this drivel.

Slow, tension less, shoddily acted, more holes than a sponge. This film should be jettisoned into space. Okay, rant over. Better? Better.

It is such a shame that an underrated cast have the opportunity to shine in a perfect B movie-esque vehicle and miss at every angle.

They could have done a shot for shot remake of Alien and they still would have messed it up.

If it wasn’t for the fact it was funded by the BFI and Irish Film Board, this definitely wouldn’t have made it to the big screen and rightly so. The fact it only featured at my cinema for five days says it all.

Also the film is called Last Days on Mars and yet when we join them, they are 19 hours away from going home so surely THE LAST DAY ON MARS. Couldn’t even get the title right.

 

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6. NATIVITY 3: DUDE WHERE’S MY DONKEY?!

Ho, ho, ho – horrible!

From the moment the first badly mimed, badly choreographed and terribly out of sync flash mob started busting shapes, I knew I was in for it. And that was just from the adults. The kids hadn’t even started yet.

Just because it was Christmas that doesn’t mean you can slap any old thing together and expect people to pay and see it. It was lazy, unfunny and poor. At a push, worth taking the little ‘uns if they are aged up to 5 tops.

I’m sure it was fun for everyone who filmed it. It’s just a shame they couldn’t convey that for everybody else.

I didn’t get me in the Christmas spirit but it certainly got reaching for the ones in my cupboard. Should be Dude, Where’s My Money?

 

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5. TRANSCENDENCE

Transcen-dunce or dense. A mind numbingly drab affair of a concept that has just enough meat to be a generic TV movie you’d expect to see on late night SyFy.

You know you’re onto a loser when the opening five minutes pretty much tells you what to expect and an established cast sleepwalk their lines and fail to make an impression.

It just proves that a little thing called story, along with some others called character, plot and interest still count.

Sleep walking performances, along with a by the numbers story line, relying on the popularity of familiar actors does not a good or profitable movie make.

I hope the memory of viewing this film will transcend, evaporating like the little nano-bots into nothingness. Avoid or upload at your own peril.

 

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4. UNDER THE SKIN

Under the skin? More like grating against my skin. What the hell did I just watch? Now imagine Species. Replace Natasha Henstridge with the even more alluring Scarlett Johansson. Set it in a grittier, murkier Scottish backdrop and bang on, you have . . . something worse than Species.

In fact just watch Species or the even more dire sequels to this drivel.

ScarJo plays a flirty alien that feasts on weak, shallow, lonely Scottish men. How could this be so bad? How can the man who brought us Sexy Beast produce this?

I mean he did do the oddly bizarre Birth. You know Birth? Nicole Kidman and her husband who is reincarnated as a 10 year old? Oh, that Birth, yeah.

 

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3. INTO THE STORM

Where to begin? The insufferable shaky handheld camera work? The cheesy Day After Tomorrow guff that managed to be more vomit inducing than the Day After Tomorrow?

The redneck tornado chasers? Richard Armitage getting his arse sucked off by a twister? Well, it bloody looked like he was.

This just made me want to walk out of the screen. Go to the nearest store that had the Twister DVD. Go back to the projectionist and tell them to put that on instead.

It was cringe-inducing bilge. I have never laughed so much. This was a farce. I have seen B-movies on SyFy that have contained better story lines and characters than this.

 

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2. AS ABOVE SO BELOW

As I watched, the more it blowed. Now childish sulky comments aside. Another found footage “horror” film graces the big screen with cheap scares, poorly acted, badly written characters and a laughable premise.

There is no tension. Random characters get bumped off left, right and centre without any background, interest or concern. Suspense. Naff all.

Loud noises and screams may make me jump out of my seat but what do you expect when the story has put me into a coma, near enough.

Feldman’s character with a dark past who constantly keeps reiterating that he will not go down into the catacombs; inevitably gets pushed down into the cave and what is his big secret?

He’s CLAUSTROPHOBIC! Why didn’t he say that in the first place? Idiot. Oh my God, it felt like something out of a comedy sketch.

 

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1. AND THE AWARD FOR WORST FILM OF 2014 GOES TO . . .

THE PYRAMID

This film should be buried beneath a pyramid.

You know you’re onto a loser when the saving grace is Jay from The Inbetweeners.

What a load of s#@! The demon bared a striking resemblance to those devil dog things from the live action Scooby Doo reboot. The one with Matthew Lillard as Shaggy.

It took half the film before they even got into the flipping thing. The ending was abrupt and predictable after all that endurance with the shoddy, shaky camera work.

Seriously, these found footage films need to STOP. It was too dark to see anything. Half of the time you get an elbow or a nostril. Come on, we’re in the Go Pro age guys!

Mindless exposition about unoriginal premises that have been done to death with lifeless characters that bicker through predictable and unscary scenarios are not acceptable.

 

HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 REVIEW

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Are you . . .? Are you . . .? Are you going to be seeing Hunger Games? It’s actually not that bad. For something that is essentially build up.

So here we are. The first part of the final film. A reluctant film gimmick that is starting to overstay its welcome. First Harry Potter, Twilight, the extended Hobbit trilogy and now The Hunger Games. It was only a matter of time.

I never read the books. BUT these films certainly got me wanting to. So I can’t make comparisons or comments on the adaptation BUT friends have told me it’s done a pretty good job . . . SO FAR. My main bugbear with the HG franchise is the slumbering pace. The cast cannot be faltered and if you were looking for a strong female lead, you could look no further than J-Law. The role was made for her. The satire and drama was very good but the two hour or so running time left me fidgeting.

The first half an hour of HG: MJ P1 was a little too slow (again) and disorienting for me. A confused Katniss is given a quick recap after destroying the games. Helpful for those not-so-die hard fans. (I know. Preposterous). I can’t believe it had been a year since Catching Fire was first released. How time flies!. The somewhat sombre opening had to introduce a new set of characters as well as explain what happened to the existing ones. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything.

A little patience was required. But once the plot was set up, Katniss caught up to speed and introduced to the full chaos and destruction surrounding the impending rebellion, the film hit its stride.

I was quite surprised at how dark this installment was. I always felt with these teen blockbusters that there was that hesitance to push it a little further. I mean, obviously it’s aiming at 12 and up. The desolate landscape of District 12 was subtly done. A harrowing sight with skulls and bodies making up the majority of the pavement. The silence as Katniss can only look in horror. Brilliantly captured.

The Capitol continue to enforce their dictatorship. Publicly shooting protesters in the main district squares and sentencing anyone seen wearing a Mockingjay symbol with treason. Yikes! While poor old Peeta (PEETA! Every time I hear J-Law warble that name, I think Lois from Family Guy) is being used as a PR tool for the Capitol. His condition, both mentally and physically, weakening by the minute.

Julianne Moore delivered a solid performance. President Coin’s stern demeanour made her a little flat and unlikeable to begin with BUT her encounters with Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) helped bring out her out of her shell a little bit. It is a shame knowing that this will be one of Hoffman’s last films. He was brilliant as Plutarch. A clever PR tactician. His presence will be sorely missed. The fact he can make a small supporting role so memorable just shows how talented the man was.

The green screen sequence allowed for some clever satire and some humour between him and J-Law. Woody Harrelson was great as Haymitch Abernathy. To be honest, there wasn’t enough of him. Arriving exactly where he’s needed. Dispensing his Yoda-esque wisdom while adjusting to being “dried out”.

It’s great to see Jeffrey Wright getting more big screen appearances after his fantastic turn as Valentin Narcisse in Boardwalk Empire. He plays the wheelchair bound Q or gadget geek Beetee well; providing Katniss with a whole new artillery. Explosive stuff. Nudge nudge wink wink.

Donald Sutherland was deliciously sinister as President Snow. BUT shamefully reduced to video speeches and evil orders. Even in the smallest scene, he is able to bust out that shark toothed grin and deliver his lines with sleaze.

Elizabeth Banks was in scene stealing form as Effie Trinket. Her expressions and one liners brought the odd chuckle. I felt that Sam Claflin’s (Love, Rosie) Finnick Odair didn’t really do much. Merely left to mope and deliver one authoritative speech which was nothing more than a distraction tactic.

The same can be said for Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones). Flailing about with a handheld camera. The camera crew was an interesting angle (What?) as they follow Katniss around to make the perfect PR piece to spur revolution among the districts. The editing and tweaking of certain video clips was an all too familiar trait with the current news affairs, let alone future ones.

Stanley Tucci was tragically reduced to nothing more than a boring BBC journalist role, asking an incarcerated Peeta what he would say to Katniss. No chance to shine or camp it up.

The action set pieces were good. The CGI and special effects were spot on. A scene involving Katniss, an arrow and a jet was awesome.

I was surprised at how good J-Law’s singing was. As if I couldn’t find any more reasons to fall for her. (What?) The girl can sing. The Hanging Tree is a broody, haunting but catchy song. Brilliantly composed by James Newton Howard. Different. A lot of people must have agreed as it managed to crack the UK Top 40 Music chart. To think, J-Law didn’t want to do it and tried to fob it off to Lorde.

The closing 20 minutes took the film up a notch. It was suspenseful, tense and promising. Something I want in a build up (Steady now) with some surprising revelations along the way.

I am a little anxious that the final part may be stretched. Something that let down the finale of Harry Potter for me. A book fan. BUT if this was just the build up, I cannot wait to see how it all ends. The closing minutes were unexpected, tense and irritating. Merely because I wanted it to carry on. Something I always expect from ongoing franchises that churn out endless sequels.

Some people may be left a little disappointed as this really is build up to the big finale.

BUT is Hunger Games worth checking out? In the words of Stan’s Dad from South Park, Hunger Games! YA, YA, YA!

3.5/5

If you’re thinking WHAT? Here is the clip in which it is revealed that Stan’s dad is Lorde!

ANNABELLE REVIEW

Annabelle-2014-Movie-Poster

Terri-belle, more like

It was only a matter of time that a spin-off of one of the creepiest horror characters of the last decade would happen. BUT maybe they shouldn’t have bothered.

A couple begins to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists.

Both the Insidious and Conjuring films were actually quite good.

Not hard considering the mindless entries of regurgitated jump-in-your-seat hidden footage movies that have bombarded the box office since Paranormal Activity.

They weren’t perfect but they attempted to resurrect that old school haunted house feel and tell an actual story.

The Annabelle doll was the creepiest thing for me in The Conjuring. That face. Shudder. And so we have a spin-off . . . Hollywood milking another cash cow.

Unfortunately the story was flat, predictable and dull. It relied on incredibly loud music and lazy “jump bits” to keep you interested.

The story of Annabelle’s origins were briefly glazed over in The Conjuring but that was still creepier than the story we got in this one.

I mean, really? The plot line was taken from Child’s Play. A demonic cult member possessing a dodgy looking doll. Boring and unoriginal.

Annabelle Wallis (Ironic her name’s the name of . . . Yeah, moving on) delivered a solid performance and certainly carried the film. That also explained her absence from the excellent BBC crime drama Peaky Blinders. It was lucky that there was a likeable lead or this would have been a complete write off.

My main issue was that the scares were so predictable. The film felt like it was going through the motions.

You could tick off a checklist of clichéd horror moments. Something will run past . . . NOW. The creepy baby mobile will start to move . . . NOW. If not for the massive cinema speakers and the grandiose musical score of Joseph Bishara, I would have barely flinched.

It seemed to mesh Child’s Play with Rosemary’s Baby. On paper, perfect. But it’s execution? Meh.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of moments (for all my cynicism) that caught me off guard. Hell, there were even actual moments of suspense.

An elongated elevator sequence had me quivering behind my hands as the doors refused to close. The ever-growing threat of something about to strike.

That was until . . . the doors kept opening and closing for the next two or three minutes, killing any tension or patience.

The final 20 minutes finally got going BUT it just wasn’t enough.

Ward Horton was so stocky and wooden. I couldn’t care what happened to his character. And that was the problem, the supporting characters were so cliched and one dimensional.

All the bad stuff would (Surprise, surprise!) happen at night. Leaving us with shoddy acting and mindless dialogue during the day sequences. Bar one crazy kitchen encounter.

Considering the running time was 99 minutes, it felt a whole lot longer.

Alfre Woodard (12 Years A Slave) and Tony Amendola (Once Upon A Time) had perfect opportunities to take the stage but their characters were so pointless and unnecessary. Save a “twist” in the closing moments.

A twist that I called so early on that I could feel my ever-thinning patience fading to nothing.

Annabelle herself was delightfully demonic. I just wish they had made more of the doll. You know, the very object that the film was supposed to be about?!

Playing on that Child’s Play vibe with the doll moving or doing something. Not the “supernatural force” around her.

For every dark moment, I felt more could have been made. The writers could have done so much more with the premise.  BUT they just played it safe. The ol’ “Well it worked with the others” spiel.

I think this film needs to be exorcised and possessed with a better cast and story line.

I don’t know what scared me more the fact it was made or the fact it made money.

2/5 for me.