*NEW* LIVE BY NIGHT REVIEW *NEW*

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Alright, alright.

The pace may have been a killer and we might have seen it all before BUT Affleck’s crime caper still packs a punch.

A group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.

The opening 20 minutes didn’t mess about. It set up Joe’s (Ben Affleck) past and got straight to business as he worked through the ranks from a petty thief to a bootlegger.

Being a noir nut, I was always going to be a little biased. It helps when some of Affleck’s better works; The Town, Gone Baby Gone (and now Live By Night) are heavily influenced by that very genre.

I’ve been impressed with Affleck’s transformation as a director. A maturity from his 90s blockbuster phase. And yes, I do think he will be a good Batman! Enough of these sad Affleck memes.

It was everything I expected from an Affleck penned gangster flick. I was already ticking noir traits off my imaginary checklist; embittered war veteran (check), disillusioned with the law (check), falling for a girl that can only mean trouble (CHECK! CHECK! CHECK!).

I say Affleck penned. He did have a little help from Dennis Lehane’s crime novel (Thank you @TheMarckoguy). A noir author I intend to read up on. A man that has penned such works as: Shutter Island, Mystic River and The Drop.

I was engrossed in Joe’s game. Playing off the Irish against the Italians in their turf war. Just to get a piece of the action and stay out of the cross-hairs. BUT it wasn’t long before the protagonist had to make a choice.

Always felt that Robert Glenister was a very underrated TV actor. Just watch BBC’s Hustle. I didn’t expect to see him feature as Albert White, the Irish kingpin. He was brilliant. I wish he was in this more. A callous adversary if ever there was one. A ticking time bomb.

The fuse? A woman, of course. Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher) wasn’t in the film as much as I thought. Especially after all the interviews and heavy advertising.

She delivered a good performance as the moxy Emma BUT somehow I think if she had more screen time with that strange Irish accent, she might have overstayed her welcome very quickly.

Brendan Gleeson made a much more memorable impression as Joe’s father. A relief after his dire cameo in Assassin’s Creed (The less we say about that, the better). Sheesh.

Another character I would have been happy to see more of. His fractious relationship with Joe was an interesting angle that wasn’t explored enough. A copper desperate to see his criminal son on the right path.

“So you’re threatening me with people that are more powerful than you? So who am I talkin’ to you for?” Affleck was fantastic. Another powerhouse performance. He looked like a tank with that Bat bulk.

The pace did meander in parts with the middle act taking the biscuit BUT thankfully that was relieved by cracking dialogue, great action pieces and fantastic cinematography.

No, really. Robert Richardson’s cinematography was something else. The sweeping shots across Miami were breathtaking alone.

The car chases were brilliantly shot. It felt like you were in the car with the robbers as they evaded capture. And of course, no gangster flick would be complete without bodies being bullet ridden by Tommy guns.

I was a little disappointed with the female roles. Miller didn’t really come across as a strong femme fatale and Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy) was completely wasted in her role.

The pair had good chemistry BUT there just wasn’t enough drama. Affleck missed an opportunity for sparks to fly when an old friend from Joe’s past crept out of the woodwork. Shame.

At first, I kept wondering why Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon) was reduced to such an unnecessary cameo as the sheriff’s daughter. However, there was an interesting turning point with her character that took me by surprise and allowed the actress her moment to shine. A good performance.

Despite my niggles, Affleck perfectly captured a gritty criminal underworld full of rich and dark characters. Chris Cooper (American Beauty) played the holistic sheriff with aplomb. Happy to turn a blind eye on Joe’s “business affairs”. Appropriately calling him, “The Mayor of Evil”.

The tense encounters with the KKK saved a labouring middle act. The suspense and heated exchanges soon brought me back into the fold. The only problem with a noir is that the end game is always the same.

The fiery final act was worth the wait. Nail biting, gripping and action packed. Even if Affleck gave us umpteen false endings. Seriously, I kept thinking the film had finished. Only for something else to pop up.

A little predictable, long at the tooth BUT tense, gritty and still a bloody good watch.

3/5

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*NEW* THE ACCOUNTANT REVIEW *NEW*

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Best film of the year? Don’t count on it.

Warning contains moderate forensic accounting.

As a math savant (Ben Affleck) uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise.

An engaging action packed thriller that delivers on the punch ups BUT stumbles on the plot and pace.

Ben Affleck played the stern faced socially awkward maths wiz perfectly. Unemotional, relentless and yet beneath his cold exterior; someone desperate to connect.

The first hour was slow burning BUT engrossing as the film flicked back and forth delving into the mysterious Christian Wolff. Cold, calculated and clever.

We watched him undergo his daily routine from eating with the same cutlery to wearing the same shirt. The questions mounting as he subjected himself to strobe lighting and heavy metal music while testing his sensitivity threshold. The flashbacks teasing mere tidbits of his troubled past.

I’m happy that the actual accounting side of it all was skimmed over. In that small 15 minute segment with stats and figures flying around, my mind felt numb. No matter how enthusiastic Affleck tried to make it.

We get it. People hide money. Well done.

The accounting angle simply established the inner workings of our protagonist. A meticulous mad man intent on seeing out the task in hand.

Thankfully, that was just a introduction for Christian to meet Dana (Anna Kendrick).

Kendrick was actually quite good. A much more subtle performance. I’m normally used to her doing the usual OTT fast talking schtick in everything.

The pair had good chemistry. Their blossoming relationship may have been a little corny BUT the awkward exchanges and glances allowed us to see a different side to the hard man as he grows concerned for the quirky clerk’s safety. Dana’s attempts to make conversation with Christian was cringe-inducing BUT endearing.

The fighting sequences were fast and furious. Affleck used all that Bat-bulk to deliver some well choreographed fist fights and shoot em up gun battles.

It was only when we moved into the second hour that things fell apart at the seams. The pace could have been cut by a good 30 minutes. Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow) was completely unnecessary as Marybeth Medina. The analyst assigned to locating the accountant.

Her subplot was terrible. We endured a good portion of the film watching her regurgitate everything we already knew. She brought nothing to the fold. It didn’t help that she never caught up with the anti-hero at any point. Dismal. As much I’m a fan of J.K. Simmons; despite one revelation, anyone could have played him. If at all!

There were two areas where that time should have been spent. The first being Christian’s actual back story. The flashbacks into his past weren’t explored enough. They may have explained the type of autism that Christian had BUT I wanted more of his childhood. Especially when he had such a ruthless and unsympathetic father.

Robert C. Treveiler (The Mist) was menacing as Christian’s military dad. Refusing to accept his son’s condition and teaching him a harsh life lesson; ““If loud noises and bright lights bother him, he needs more, not less”. Forcing the boy to undergo intense training to adapt and not be a door mat.

I wanted more of this intense relationship BUT the tidbits were few and far between. Only really thrown in when the pace (tragically) dragged.

I also wish we had more of Jon Bernthal’s (The Walking Dead) Brax. A charismatic opponent and a bi-polar opposite of Christian. Not enough of him. Delivering suspense and tension with every unlucky person that had the pleasure of meeting him. A missed presence that was only really brought back for the frantic fiery finale.

John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun) and Jean Smart (24) were completely wasted in their feeble roles as Christian’s corporate clients.

BUT it wasn’t all bad. At its best, it was brutal, gripping and tense with another stellar performance from Affleck. It was just a shame that the pace and flawed plot line hampered things. Despite an ultra-violent finale, that delivered a few twists, it ended on such a bum note. Shame.

If you’re a fan of the Bourne movies, then this one is for you.

3/5

*NEW* BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE REVIEW *NEW*

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Yawwwnnnnn of Justice. Oh dear. Oh dear. Was it a DC disaster? Or a misunderstood masterpiece?

There’s only one way to find out . . .

Fearing that the actions of Superman (Henry Cavill) are left unchecked, Batman (Ben Affleck) takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.

All that hype. All that anticipation. My brother fell asleep in the cinema. People argued with me on how terrible it was. The feeling of disappointment hit me in the gut like a punch from Supes himself.

Yet somehow on second viewing, it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered.

The strong opening delivered everything I hoped. A brooding, dark, tense action packed sequence with stunning visuals and a menacing score from the Mad Max maestro Junkie XL and Hans “Gladiator” Zimmer.

While the credits rolled, we had the quickest recap through Batman’s origins. No matter how many sequels, reboots and remakes; it’s always the same story. I wondered why Snyder grabbed The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as Bruce’s parents. A real waste. They didn’t have any more screen time in the Extended Edition!

However, I liked how the writers answered one question straight off the bat that bugged the hell out of me during the Man of Steel finale; “How have Superman and Zod not killed any people with all that destruction?!”

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The answer was simple. They did. The eerily 9/11 vibe to the Man of Steel’s destruction was unsettling as Zod (Michael Shannon – Midnight Special) and Superman ploughed through tower after tower. One of the buildings being none other than Wayne Enterprises.

A haunting image of a bitter Bruce Wayne cradling a child covered in rubble and carnage. Cue the movie title.

A shame that momentum couldn’t be carried on. I wasn’t overly impressed with Man of Steel BUT thought Cavill was brilliant as the man in the red cape. It was long at the tooth and far too serious for its own good. Only lightening up in the closing act.

Bit like this one, really . . .

BvS: Dawn of Justice should have been called Man of Steel 2 ft. Sulky Batman.

I liked the idea. It was just the execution that spoiled things. The whole debate about Superman being a false God and the security risks were all too realistic and the surprisingly bleak and cynical undertone offered a completely different direction to the Avengers.

This should have been a shot out of the ball park with the Watchmen (Very underrated film) director at the helm.

The main issue was the disjointed and incredibly convoluted plot. Amy Adams was completely wasted as Lois Lane. She was sent off on some uninteresting goose chase around the States bugging senators about experimental warfare and some ruse involving African terrorists and Russian gangsters that . . . basically was a shoddy excuse to force our two “heroes” to meet. Either that or fishing around for a spear of Kryptonite. Yup.

And the end result was so tragically predictable.

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Jesse Eisenberg’s (The Social Network) take on Lex Luthor was a mixed bag. I was always #TeamBatman BUT I did enjoy Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey’s take on Supe’s renowned foe.

BUT Eisenberg just flailed about and waffled insufferable verbal diarrhea. Applying his usual schtick. Instead of taking the opportunity to play a different character. There were moments where he showed potential. An interesting anecdote about Granny’s Peach Tea delivered an unexpected punch line.

Now onto the Dark Knight. Batfleck was superb. He was an excellent Batman and an even better Bruce Wayne. It was going to be tough to follow on from Bale BUT he nailed it. His Batman counterpart followed on from the Bale Bat quite well.

If anything his character had become embittered and disillusioned. Branding his victims with a mark of justice that was pretty much a death sentence. Brutal. Angry with the world. The good men are gone.

“Even you’ve got too old to die young. Not for the lack of trying”. There wasn’t enough Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Desperate for the billionaire to seek something other than vengeance.

“Crime spree in Gotham. Water is wet.” Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) was on fine form as the Daily Planet Editor Perry White. I wanted more of Gal Gadot’s character. The mystery surrounding Diana Prince as she stumbled into Wayne’s dangerous game of chess was much more interesting than anything Luthor could conjure up.

It was at the half way marker where my patience was tested. It didn’t help having one of the most disjointed flash forwards (teasers) thrown into the mix. It didn’t fit in with the film at all. A bold statement by the producers (hoping that more movies will come to explain it) BUT it was completely out of sync with what was going on.

It certainly wouldn’t have made any sense to the DC newbies. I know it was played off as a strange dream sequence that introduced another Justice League member BUT it didn’t work.

“Black and blue. Fight night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world: God versus man; day versus night; Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!”

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The build up, the anticipation, two flippin’ hours of mindless exposition! All for an intense 15 minutes.

The brooding, the stare-offs, the tension. A training montage that could have parodied Rocky IV with ol’ Bruce dragging massive tyres and lifting weights while Kent traipsed around a snowy mountain.

The special effects were fantastic. The minute fight sequence was set up quite well as the Caped Crusader set up an obstacle course for the nearly indestructible son of Krypton.

Cavill and Affleck worked well off each other and made the fractious exchanges much more watchable and entertaining. I just wish they hadn’t spent so much of the film keeping them apart!

And the final 30 minutes offered more of what I expected from the get go. It took itself much less seriously and threw in some needed humour and once Wonder Woman got involved, it was a riot. That score every time she came on though. Talk about overkill with the horns. Jeez.

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Despite my initial disappointment and nitpicking, this wasn’t a complete write-off. It showed promise and offered a completely different direction to the Marvel movies. One that may be darker, broodier and bloodier.

By all means NOT a bad thing. BUT can they work on crafting the characters, a better story and the flipping pace first?!

3/5

GONE GIRL REVIEW

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If you haven’t gone. Go!

One of the best films I have seen in a long time and dare I say a contender for film of the year? Can Fincher do no wrong? (Leave Alien 3 out of this!)

With his wife’s (Rosamund Pike) disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man (Ben Affleck) sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.

After seeing the heavily advertised trailers and endless hype for Gone Girl, I dreaded seeing it. I felt the trailers gave everything away and left little for me to look forward to. I went in expecting to be disappointed, praying that it will at least be watchable.

But not this time. A slow burning, tense, suspenseful murder mystery that keeps you guessing. Dark, clever and, at times, surprisingly funny with some sharp satire on the relentless media manhunt that can consume a nation and remove objectivity where it’s really needed.

The opening hour very much sets up the pieces flicking back and forth from the initial incident. We get a sense of each character. The inevitable finger pointing game begins; “I think they’re hiding something”, “He looks dodgy”, “I think he or she did it”.

Ben Affleck was fantastic and apparently battling his Batman bulk. But the real plaudits will go to Rosamund Pike. A fitting end note for a busy year of movies for her. The Oscar buzz around her performance is completely justified.

Now I will admit that I haven’t read the novel. People have told me that the book is so much better. If that be the case, I must read this book because the film was brilliant. It helps that the screenplay was adapted by the author Gillian Flynn.

I’m sure many of you have heard the twist talk. Yes, there is a big twist. That is revealed quite early on. I will not be revealing any plot points because I want people to see this. However, I did find that the twist transformed the film for me and took it to another level.

The first half of the film had chugged along quite well and certainly played on the paranoia and suspicions fantastically with the endless red herrings. But once the twist is revealed, it changes everything and how everyone was initially perceived.

My main quip with films (of late) was pace. At 165 minutes, I thought this film would test me. BUT for once, I found myself hooked and actually turning my phone off to avoid interruptions. Transfixed by the story, the acting and suspense.

The trademark cinematography (and regular Fincher stalwart) of Jeff Cronenweth certainly adds to the murky undertones flowing through the film. Fincher also has a fantastic supporting cast at his fingertips.

Tyler Perry was surprisingly good, delivering some unexpected but hilarious one liners as the ruthless smooth talking lawyer. To be honest, I wanted more to see more of his character. Sela Ward (House) and Missi Pyle (Dodgeball) were perfectly cast as the silver tongued media mouthpieces thriving on the attention focused on Affleck’s Nick.

Flynn couldn’t be any more accurate with the representation of the media surrounding the missing; the social media in particular. How a simple picture can be manipulated to mean so much more than was originally intended.

Gone Girl allowed some smaller actors the opportunity to step up. Kim Dickens (The Blind Side) was very good as the relentless detective hell bent on persecuting Nick. Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) went completely out of character. A breath of fresh air. He played the part to perfection.

Kathleen Rose Perkins was wasted in her role. Anyone could have played her. A real shame after her performance in Episodes. The real scene stealer, second to Pike, was Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo. Coon has already made an impression after her turn in the bizarre but strangely hypnotic The Leftovers. Performances like this will certainly keep her very much on the watch list.

I felt the ending fitted the film perfectly but others may find it a little too abrupt and open. It is always a risk when everything pieces together that the final unravelling may disappoint. BUT there is certainly a lot more to this than meets the eye.

A film that very much lives up to the hype. Tense, suspenseful, dark, engaging. GO SEE NOW.

4/5

Yes, a 4! Finally a film to break the endless ranting and raving from this reviewer.

*JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT REVIEWED AND REVISITED*

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New recruit. Same problems. Hardly the best Ryan outing but it wasn’t a complete misfire.

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.

Jack Ryan has been brought back numerous times and always (shamefully) fails to stick around as a continuing franchise, much like the Alex Cross series. There have been some great installments with Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck taking the helm. Clear and Present Danger being a personal favourite.

Pine (Star Trek) was an engaging and very likeable Ryan. His charisma carried the film when the pace slackened. Something that happened far too often.

We flashed through Ryan’s origins (A nice change) as he became a “shadow recruit”. Working for the CIA on an unofficial capacity (In a nutshell). Harrowing images of 9/11 spurring our protagonist to drop his economics degree and join the Marines.

You could argue that it wasn’t needed as Ryan’s commitment and patriotism were established early on BUT it did present a post 9/11 reboot of the travelled Clancy icon.

All the training montages zipped along nicely and breezed through the usual cliches. BUT that was soon thrown out of the window when Ryan fell for his doctor in training, the beautiful Keira Knightley (who delivered a convincing American accent).

Kevin Costner’s (The Untouchables) mysterious Colonel Harper was heavily underused. Not nearly in it enough. It took a good half hour before the film really picked up as we drudged through economic gobbledygook as Ryan gathered Intel at Wall Street.

I didn’t need a retread of The Big Short. All that complicated jargon to explain that a bunch of Russian terrorists were funding their next attack through their corporations. I had to laugh at the irony when said attack was on the US economy.

Thankfully as soon as Ryan reached Russia, I got a bit more of what I expected. A bizarre hotel ambush fight sequence was a much needed catalyst and my griping soon subsided.

Kenneth Branagh (Valkyrie) was perfect as the maniacal Viktor Cherevin. Tattooed up and looking bad ass. Every time he shared the screen with Pine, there was suspense and tension. The pair worked brilliantly together.

A nail biting sequence in which Ryan infiltrated Cherevin’s office had me on tenterhooks. Tragically, it was bogged down with hammy dialogue and more of Knightley (Pirates of The Caribbean) and Pine’s cheesy romance.

As much as the couple had good chemistry; it was the same old guff. Juggling ‘the girl over the job nonsense’ with Knightley inevitably roped into the chaos.

It was a little disappointing as the plot suggested something darker with sleeper terrorists hiding in the US but that was soon cast aside with a predictable twist and endless punch ups and explosions.

Don’t get me wrong. It was fast and furious with an all out frenzy of a finale. All be it a rushed one BUT Branagh wasn’t even in it. Ryan ended up fighting a generic underling in a rapid city chase. Disappointed, to say the least.

A mixed bag. Watchable if flawed to bits. I mean these actioners are supposed to be good fun but this was adapted from a Tom Clancy novel. Novels that could deliver action as well as engaging suspense-filled political story lines.

This felt like a taster of things to come. It set out some good groundwork BUT why didn’t it hit the ground running? A little more effort, a meatier story line and a super villain that could actually be involved in the finale would certainly make for a decent sequel BUT, as things stand, I don’t think that will be happening any time soon.

Pine was a solid lead BUT the plot, tone and pace made this a missed opportunity to reboot a character that should be on the silver screen. Maybe a TV outing have been better?

Don’t get me wrong, it killed the time and was a fun enough ride. Just not one that you’ll remember long after.

3/5 (just)