*NEW* GHOST STORIES REVIEW *NEW*

Spookay. Horrific BUT for the right reasons?

Skeptic Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman) embarks upon a terror-filled quest when he stumbles across a long-lost file containing details of three cases of inexplicable ‘hauntings’.

As soon as the heavy breathing hit those speakers over the opening title sequence, I knew what I was in for. The movie title jumping out of the screen confirmed my fears that this will not be comfortable viewing.

Something I expect from a horror.

Nyman was a solid lead. The first act ticked over as the Ricky Gervais doppelganger exposed Martin from Benidorm (Nicholas Burns) as a fake. Joking aside, it was good watching Green expose Burn’s Derek Acorah impersonator. Complete with fake tan.

A man fixated on debunking the supernatural. That was until a mysterious cassette (Do they still make those?) is posted though Green’s door. His curiousity peaked. An invitation from his childhood icon, the renowned paranormal investigator Charles Cameron, who had (until this moment) been missing for years.

I loved how the film kept you on edge from the get go. You never really knew where it was going as Green accepted Cameron’s “challenge” to explain three “unsolvable” cases.

I have to commend the cast. I couldn’t fault them. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to take them seriously as the majority of them had featured in the comedy circuit.

Each performance suited the story. Paul Whitehouse was entertaining. Using humour to hide the pain of that dreaded night. A man plagued by something more than his own demons.

I found the interviewing process a little tedious in places as Green feigned small talk to get to the good stuff BUT as soon as Whitehouse recalled the first ghost story of this saga, I was on tenterhooks.

That feeling of unease as things went bump in the night and shadows serenaded across the fading lights. The suspense and tension perfectly executed, teasing the inevitable encounter from our spooky friends.

One thing I will never be is a night watchman. I would have bolted when the power went out. Let alone, strange noises and ghastly shapes running around the premises. Fook that!

Not that I need a cheap scare to get my kicks BUT I lost count of how many times I jolted in my seat.

Alex Lawther (The End of the F***king World) was brilliant as the erratic Simon. I just wish his ghost story wasn’t so stupid despite the fitting Evil Dead nods. It wouldn’t have worked at all if wasn’t for Lawther.

I was happy to stick with Green interviewing him. Simon’s creepy household unsettled me more than the actual “ghost story”. Especially when Green tried to introduce himself to the parents *shudders*.

It was great to see Martin Freeman in this. He played it well. Not too big for the low budget Brit flicks. The poltergeist story was a mixed bag BUT it took an unexpected turn that left me in awe.

“The brain let’s you see what you want to see”.

A proper old school horror. Tense, nail biting and freaky to boot.

However, my main issue was the pacing and the actual “unravelling” of the cases. The finale will definitely split people. I was left wanting and a little disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, it took a completely different direction BUT there were quite a few obvious clues along the way and alarm bells were ringing pretty early on when Charles Cameron was introduced into the mix.

I hoped it would focus more on Green’s crusade as he questioned beliefs and challenged the idea of the “other world”. An interesting debate with a priest had potential BUT it seemed once the ghost stories came into play, even the protagonist became an unwitting spectator as the film drew to its messy conclusion.

Right up to that point, I was wincing, dreading what lie in store for each character (Forgetting that they were the narrators of their own stories!). Completely transfixed and happy to see a low budget horror flick at my local picture house.

I can’t believe I’m saying this BUT I just wish a little more time was spent on the story then the actual scares. It was too convoluted for its own good.

If you’re in the mood for a well acted low budget jump-fest, then GS is for you. Anything else, run away!

2.5/5

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*NEW* STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS REVIEW *NEW*

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Was the force strong with this one? Was this the sequel I was looking for?

In a nutshell, hype help it did NOT.

It was always going to be tough to follow on from such an iconic trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI) BUT it was still an enthralling and promising effort from J.J. Abrams. After the successful Star Trek reboot, I had full confidence in the director to continue George Lucas’ legacy.

As soon as those infamous credits came up, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .” and that iconic John Williams score boomed through the surround sound speaker system, this film nerd bellowed a Wookie cry in rejoice.

It was hard NOT to get that buzz and excitement as the plot scrolled up the screen into nothingness. Thankfully, there was no dense mumbo jumbo about taxation. *Cough* Phantom Menace *Cough*

Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

Don’t worry. I will do my utmost NOT to spoil anything. Promise.

I always went out of my way to avoid getting into the Star Wars films. BUT the force was too strong. I couldn’t resist the score, the characters, the very world that Lucas capitulated.

The humour, the action, the corny exchanges. Thankfully they were all still there. It probably helped that Abrams teamed up with Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back/The Return of the Jedi. Ugh. Those Ewoks. Man oh man).

The first hour I was hooked. Engrossed. Fantastic special effects. Frenetic energy. Great characters. SOLD.

The introduction of several new faces spiced up the mix. John Boyega (Attack the Block) and Daisy Ridley (Mr Selfridge) were worthy additions and certainly held their own.

Oscar Isaac’s (Ex Machina) Poe wasn’t in this enough. His quick witted one liners reminded me of a young Han Solo. BUT after making an impressionable introduction, he was largely absent. Shame.

Ridley was superb. It was a breath of fresh air to see a female heroine after following Luke and Anakin. She carried the film and was a likeable protagonist. Boyega was very good as troubled trooper Finn. Come a long way from Attack The Block.

We also had a new villain in the form of the mysterious Kylo Ren. Channelling his inner Vader. I was transfixed. That was until the chap took off his helmet. Sorry, Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You). I can see why that Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account exists. His isolated conversation with Vader’s broken helmet was haunting.

Domnhall Gleeson (About Time) also delivered an underrated performance as General Hux. By the end, I was more entranced with him than Ren. Rivalling Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin as the creepy underling. His unsettling Hitler-esque speech made the hairs stand on the back of my neck.

However, the biggest scene stealer was the adorable android BB-8. Hilarious. I’m sure a lot of people will be wanting to buy one of these little bots. I know I want one.

 

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Of course, the heavily flogged trailers revealed the return of some old faces. It was great to see Han Solo and ol’ Chewie. They were fantastic and haven’t changed a bit. Perfect. Harrison Ford was on fine form. Showing the newbies how it’s done.

Believe it or not, this really will be down to how much of a Star Wars fan you are. Go figure. If you’re anything like me, you would have already had your Star Wars marathon. The Good (Episode V), The Bad (Episode II) and the Ugly (Episode I).

If you haven’t then I would highly recommend that you don’t. As much as Abrams and Kasdan changed a few things, introduced new faces and brought back the old ones, there was only so much you could do with the story arc.

The closing act felt like one enormous retread of Episode IV: A New Hope. Different characters doing the exact same thing with the same end result. Predictable and frankly a little disappointing.

It didn’t help that the pace got increasingly patchy as the film carried on. A drawn out bar sequence with Maz Kanata (voiced brilliantly by Lupita Nyong’o) certainly didn’t help matters. The force waffle went on too long and I couldn’t help but think of Madge from Benidorm while Kanata spoke. Anybody else see it? Nope?

 

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I knew that Episode VII was going to be a continuation BUT I was still expecting more. Maybe it was a case of hype being a hindrance after setting the bar so high. Don’t get me wrong, it was a vast improvement from Episodes I and II. I know some of you will say, “Well, that wouldn’t take much”.

BUT as much as Abrams and Kasdan tried to create a little mystery around the old faces as we wondered what had happened in 30 years, it was pretty easy to piece together.

Carrie Fisher was wasted in her role as Leia. Gutted. I couldn’t make head or tail of what Andy Serkis’ (The Lord of the Rings) Supreme Leader Snoke was supposed to be.

The pace tested. The plot was disappointing. BUT I was still happy to be taken back to that crazy universe and once I saw a particular piece of space junk take flight, I was beaming from ear to ear.

An enjoyable enough romp and a welcome return for a franchise. BUT if there is to be more, retread old ground we must NOT.

3.5/5 (Just)