*NEW* IN THE HEART OF THE SEA REVIEW *NEW*

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Thar she blows. Yes it did. A meandering pace and shoddy CGI made this star studded odyssey sink faster than it’s aquatic antagonist.

A recounting of a New England whaling ship’s sinking by a giant whale in 1820, an experience that later inspired the great novel Moby Dick.

It was an experience. The opening didn’t really get things going with Ben Whishaw’s (SPECTRE) Melville bribing Brendan Gleeson’s (Gangs of New York) drunken sailor Thomas Nickerson for the story of a lifetime. Good actors playing dull characters that were merely narrative devices. Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones) was completely wasted in her role as Nickerson’s wife.

The first hour was a mind numbing affair. The pace was agonizingly slow. The drama was far too tame and the accents were terrible. I know they were supposed to be from New England. BUT the mish/mesh of English and American just didn’t work. 

I had full confidence in Chris Hemsworth playing the charismatic first mate Owen Chase BUT the ridiculously cliched introduction with him bidding farewell to his pregnant wife (Charlotte Riley – Edge of Tomorrow) was nauseating. And another waste of an actress.

There was potential in Benjamin Walker’s George Pollard. The captain born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Assigned to Chase’s crew through family ties. Simmering tension that went nowhere. Hemsworth and Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) worked well together and made a formidable pairing. I didn’t realise how much Walker looked like a young Liam Neeson and he did have a particular set of skills. BUT things only really picked up when ol’ Moby made her introduction.

Creeping up like Orca the whale. The first attack was tense and nail biting. And for the next 20 minutes, my grumbling ceased. Howard crafted some much needed suspense as the relentless beast picked off each lifeboat one by one with a flick of her giant tail fin.

As much as I was engaged (at last!) with the action, I was soon put off by the horrific CGI. It was scarier than the creature itself. The white whale looked more like a painter’s radio. It was dreadful to look at. I was more afraid (And still am) of the mechanical monstrosity that was Jaws than ol’ Moby. Even when bodies were falling into the sea and the ship was falling apart, it was far too cartoony. A real eye sore.

Hemsworth (Thor) carried this as much as he could BUT the characters were so weak, bland and unmemorable. Tom Holland (The Impossible) delivered an underwhelming performance as a young Thomas Nickerson. He wasn’t strong enough. I know that he was playing a young sailor on his first voyage BUT if this lad is supposed to be the next Spiderman than I’m going to need more convincing. Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) was probably the only other crew member worth giving a mention to. Until he was pushed into the background. Shame.

The idea of being stranded at sea for 30-odd days with a whale waiting to pick you off sounded great on paper. BUT this effort only managed to deliver in parts. The plot did take a dreadfully bleak and darker turn. Especially as the men were facing starvation. The inevitable mutinies and plotting soon on the cards.

When the CGI wasn’t ruining it, Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography was beautiful to look at. Probably NOT the best thing as I was thinking of going on holiday more than wondering whether the characters would survive or not.

I’m normally a huge fan of Howard’s work. He was even managed to make the madness that was The Da Vinci Code enjoyable BUT somehow this latest offering just didn’t do it for me. It was disappointing.

It was far too patchy and didn’t have conviction to be a poignant sea faring yarn or a monster movie. The moral standpoint and grandiose speeches in the closing act really did hamper the whole thing. The conflicts with nature was only really touched on with the hunting sequences. More could have been made out of the meddling shareholders as an inquiry was held into the attack on the Essex.

BUT like the ocean waves, my interest went up and down. A missed opportunity. A black spot on Mr Howard’s impressive filmography 😉

2.5/5

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*NEW* THE DANISH GIRL REVIEW *NEW*

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Two outstanding performances makes this intriguing little drama one to watch.

A fictitious love story inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.

I never expected The Danish Girl to be my cup of tea. The content at first glance didn’t really appeal to me BUT what did was the cast. I couldn’t pick a more perfect combination. Redmayne and Vikander were brilliant. They had fantastic chemistry and made an endearing couple. You really did care for them. We join the married couple of six years in 1920s Copenhagen. Happy and in love.

The slow burning pace allowed the transformation to happen more naturally. We follow Vikander’s Gerda as she struggles to make a career as a painter. Desperate to break free from the shadow of her renowned husband.

A simple problem with a model being late and a quick pose for a portrait and we slowly unearth something in the bashful and timid Einar Wegener. The dresses. The heels. The stockings. Appealing to a deeper part of him. Embraced as a little joke; the pair take it a step further. Desperate NOT to be seen at a party function, Einar creates the alter ego Lili.

The film chugged along at an easygoing pace as the pair messed around with the dresses and wigs. BUT while Gerda saw it as a little bit of fun, we notice a change in Einar. Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and writer Lucinda Coxon got the perfect balance. A chance encounter with Ben Whishaw’s (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) Henrik and Redmayne’s Lili could easily have played out like something out of Some Like It Hot.

BUT it wasn’t long before Lili overstayed her welcome. Redmayne proved once again why he deserved that Oscar gold last year. An excellent performance. The ego of Lili awoke something that had always been inside of Einar. It was an interesting insight into the transgender psyche. Einar’s treatment and transformation was something else.

His treatment in the 20s was baffling. I should have seen it coming BUT it still made for engaging viewing. Desperate to seek help for Gerda’s sake and to find answers, Einar faces charges of perversion, homosexuality and even has to evade capture from being committed to a mental hospital after being diagnosed a schizophrenic. The man even took radiation therapy to correct the “chemical imbalance”.

As much as you could feel for Einar’s inner turmoil and tried to understand what he was going through, you also felt for Gerda who faced losing the very person she fell in love with. Vikander was superb. A performance worthy of that BAFTA nod.

I wish more was made out of the supporting cast. Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From The Madding Crowd) did well with the small supporting role of Einar’s boyhood chum and even Amber Heard (The Rum Diary) managed to make a memorable impression in her frightfully miniscule role/cameo as Gerda’s friend Ulla. Regular Hooper stalwart Danny Cohen’s cinematography delivered yet again. Bringing life and colour to a rather dull looking Denmark.

However, it wasn’t all perfect. For all the drama, I was left wanting. The pace did test as the film passed the 90 minute marker. Two hours was too much. As the film drew to a close and Einar considered surgery, things picked up. BUT it seemed to rush after such a long build up and end a little too abruptly for my liking.

Despite a lumbering pace, two sterling turns helped make this engaging examination one to watch.

3/5

*NEW* SPECTRE REVIEW *NEW*

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Bond is back but bigger and better?

Well done, Mr Craig. You have finally won me over. To be honest, I loved his first outing in Casino Royale (my favourite in the Craig era). He had the charm, the one liners and the look. Ticking all the boxes. BUT Quantum of Solace delivered a much darker and angrier Bond. It was far too intense and serious for me. This had been attempted before with Timothy Dalton in A License To Kill to mixed results.

I didn’t have a problem with a darker Bond. Pierce Brosnan’s efforts (my second rated Bond) was bordering on cartoony CGI and Roger Moore territory. The Saint may have got away with it in the 70s BUT Die Another Day nearly ended it all. A game changer was needed. I respected the change BUT not the direction. It felt like they were trying to turn Bond into Jason Bourne.

However, it was the first series of Bond films that featured an ongoing story arc. Skyfall was very disappointing. For an entry that marked 50 years for the franchise, I expected something a little more. It was over hyped, overlong and if not for a surprising closing act, I would have rated this as one of the weaker offerings.

The one thing I could commend Skyfall for was the little things. The humour, Moneypenny, Q, the Aston Martin DB5. All the things that drew me to Bond in the first place. It gave me hope. Now here we are. The 24th entry of a super spy series. And boy,what a film.

The opening sequence for SPECTRE was fantastic. Slow burning, tense but action packed with a high octane helicopter sequence. As soon as Craig made his introduction, I was sold. The very pinnacle of the iconic spy. Cool, calm and slick. Casually adjusting his cuffs while donning a rifle.

Even Sam Smith’s opening theme delivered. At first listening, it sounded like a bland Eurovision track. BUT I have to say it has grown on me and really fitted the film.

It was great watching Craig enjoy the 007 status. The charisma. The debonair style. Very much in the vein of Sean Connery (My favourite Bond). Old school. Perfect. It brought something that had been lacking in the others. Humour.

I don’t want to say too much about SPECTRE as I want people to see this. BUT for the die hard fans, like yours truly, we witness the return of one of Bond’s most iconic villains. And I couldn’t think of anybody better to take on this prestigious role than Christoph Walz. He was superb. Slimy, sinister and on scene stealing form. My only gripe with his performance was that there wasn’t enough of it.

Dave Bautista was a unit. After his impressive turn in Guardians of the Galaxy, I wasn’t surprised that the former WWE star was offered the role of a Bond henchman. It was a shame that they chose to make him silent. He delivered his best impression of the Mountain from Game of Thrones. His scrap with Craig was one of the best villain fight sequences I’ve seen. You felt every punch.

For all the hype around Monica Bellucci’s role as a Bond girl (Or woman, should I say?), I was left wanting. Steady now. If anything her character was completely unnecessary. She certainly looked stunning and proved all those critics wrong griping about her age BUT her “love scene” with Craig came off unintentionally comical. Kissing while trying to talk chunky bits of dialogue didn’t work and killed the chemistry.

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However, Bond finally met his match with the feisty and resourceful Lea Seydoux. The pair’s chemistry and friction certainly kept things watchable when the pace seemed to drop.

The action sequences were brilliant. The plane chase sequence in Austria was mental. The car chase around Rome was fantastic with the new Aston Martin DB10. It was fast, frantic and hilarious as Bond battled to work out the prototype while dealing with henchmen and Italian pensioners fancying a late night drive.

What I also loved about this was how Logan brought in the rest of the team. It was great to see Ben Whishaw getting more screen time as Q. He had a much better rapport with Craig and was even brought out on location like Desmond Llewelyn used to with Connery. BUT at the expense of Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny.

She still made a made a memorable impression. Especially during a phone call with Bond mid car chase. Ralph Fiennes had a tough act to follow after Dench’s brilliant turn as M. BUT it was good to see him bring something new to the role and get in on the action.

It might help to have seen the other Craig entries BUT you won’t be too lost as Logan and Mendes briefly recap the story arc. As much as SPECTRE ticked the boxes, it wasn’t all perfect.

BEST BOND FILM EVER? Certainly not. The middle act lumbered the pace and when the action scenes had subsided and the couple were travelling, I could feel myself fidgeting after the 90 minute marker. Thankfully, things picked up when Walz was properly brought into the mix with his Dr No-esque lair.

This could have been cut by 30 minutes and been stronger for it. It was good to see a little more cheese and fun with this installment but for some it might be seen as a step down. And after 24 films, there are only so many different twists and turns that you can do with the Bond films. You can’t help BUT retread through old ground. There are only so many homages you can do before it gets repetitive.

The closing finale was fantastic and certainly left a satisfying if cryptic ending. Will Bond die another day? Especially when Tomorrow Never Dies? With the box office booming, is the world not enough?

Slick, stylish if a little overdone, Bond is back and on form. BUT better? Not quite, 007 but good enough.

3.5/5