*NEW* CAROL REVIEW *NEW*

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Two superb performances reprieve an overhyped and overlong affair.

Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk (Rooney Mara) who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman (Cate Blanchett).

I think this was another case of hype being a hindrance. I don’t know what I was expecting BUT somehow it didn’t quite deliver.

The pace was far too long. I didn’t mind watching the slow burning romance blossom BUT that there wasn’t much else. Romance movies were never my forte and the subject matter wasn’t as engaging as I had hoped.

I mean it in the best way because their relationship seemed so normal. With the legalisation of gay marriage and the rise of movies focusing on the gay rights movement and gay characters, it has marked a progressive change in perception.

All I saw was a normal relationship between two people. Of course, what helped was good characters and great acting that allowed you to buy into it. Blanchett and Mara were superb. They had fantastic chemistry and really made the relationship work.

The meandering pace really didn’t help things. It dipped in and out. This could have been done in 90 minutes and been better for it. The 50s controversial context gave it the much needed spice and things took a nastier turn when Carol’s husband Harge (Kyle Chandler – Friday Night Lights) came into the mix.

You felt for Carol as Harge battles the court to take her daughter away. Fighting for full custody on the grounds of breaking a “morality cause”. His anger and obsession to control Carol was daunting stuff and allowed for some tense moments. His volatile mood swings and drunken stupor created a threatening menace. But beneath all that bravado was a man scorned.

Carol is soon forced to make a decision to face the “moral” implications and have her dirty laundry about her previous relationships aired in the courts at the risk of losing her daughter or give up the love of her life. It was interesting watching Carol’s relationship with her previous lover Abby (Sarah Poulson – American Horror Story). A future glimpse of what could lie in store. A lonely woman haunting a big house.

The closing 30 minutes picked up the pace. The love scenes were dealt with tactfully BUT it’s not as if both actresses have been shy in front of the camera before. Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) played the confused Therese to perfection while Blanchett proved once again why she deserved that Oscar gold (Blue Jasmine) in a fantastic little scene as she pleaded with Harge one last time.

Edward Lachman’s cinematography was very unflattering. It added a much needed realism to the piece BUT was far too grainy and just terrible to look at. Carter Burwell’s musical score created the perfect mood setting and worked really well with the scenes.

I also didn’t expect to see Cory “The Riddler” Michael Smith from Gotham in a surprising supporting role.

Carol was definitely worth a watch to see two fantastic actresses at their best BUT I needed a little more story told in a shorter pace. There were a couple of things I didn’t expect BUT it still ended with the same end result. Shame.

2.5/5

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X + Y REVIEW

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X + Y = One good film + one happy film goer.

Heartwarming, engaging and brilliantly acted. Dare I say it? This gets a 4 from me.

I nearly missed this little gem as it had only a week release at my local (Cinema NOT pub).

What’s it about? A socially awkward teenage math prodigy (Asa Butterfield) finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad.

Our story follows a gifted and special young boy named Nathan (That’s my name!) who is diagnosed with autism. His unique preference for patterns soon develops an interest in mathematics leading to a . . . brilliant film.

Director Morgan Matthews and writer James Graham allow the film to move at a slow burning pace as we see Nathan receive his diagnosis. Edward Baker-Close plays young Nathan very well. His outlook and way of thinking makes him appear abrupt and quite blunt.

His honesty not necessarily coming out in the right way and at the right person.

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) was superb as Nathan’s mother, Julie. Struggling to understand the condition and failing to interact with him in the right way was hard viewing. Innocently asking a young Nathan if she could help with his homework. He looks up at her and simply replies, “You wouldn’t understand. You’re not clever enough”.

Nathan’s autism may only be a particular type but it soon turns him into a social outcast.

Martin McCann (’71) was very good as Nathan’s father. His patience and understanding of Nathan allowed the news to be more of a gift than a curse. However, it isn’t long before an unexpected tragedy comes along.

The story moves forward to a teenage Nathan. Asa Butterfield (Hugo) was excellent. His mannerisms and blunt delivery were well done. You really felt for the lad but also wished he couldn’t be so rude to his mother.

The fact he won’t allow Julie to touch him or even hold her hand was heartbreaking.

Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) was brilliant as Mr Humphreys. An embittered maths teacher donning a cane and popping pills like sweets. Sound familiar?

Spall’s characters does bear a striking resemblance to that of House. His brash comments, deflated ego, bemused attitude.

However, there is a sadness behind Humphreys as we discover he is battling with multiple sclerosis.

His pairing with Nathan was like something out of the Odd Couple. Nathan’s brutally honest comments to Humphreys’ sarcastic and smart ass outlook.

When the pair first meet, Nathan asks, “Why do you walk funny?”. Humphreys’ response; “Why are you so weird?”

Comical but endearing. Humphreys’ failed Olympiad past soon becomes a crucial tool to help Nathan and it isn’t long before the pair work together on achieving the impossible.

Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan) was amusing as the highly competitive and deluded UK team Olympiad leader. Constantly driving the children and desperate to beat China in any capacity (Even jogging and cooking shrimp).

In between training for the Olympiad and dealing with new surroundings, Nathan strikes another friendship with a Chinese Olympiad, Zhang Mei.

An impressive debut performance from Jo Yang. She had good chemistry with Butterfield and the pair are adorable together.

It was brilliantly handled and delicately deals with Nathan’s autism perfectly. From his handling of social situations to how he perceives certain colours and light.

Jake Davies (Cyberbully) was excellent as Luke; a fellow Olympiad who also has autism.

It was an interesting and harrowing comparison showing the different scales of the autism spectrum.

Luke’s attempts at interaction were harsh viewing. Scornful and arrogant, one moment. Desperate to make friends, the next.

Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game) played the smug bully Isaac well. His constant put downs on Luke were all too realistic. A silly boy who is aware of his condition but still does everything to throw obstacles in Luke’s path.

The mathematics get a little mind-numbing BUT luckily the focus is always on the characters.

I just wished a little more time was spent on Humphreys’ story line. His battle with his painkiller addiction and a possible blossoming romance made for good viewing in between Nathan’s new ventures.

We got to see him fight depression but also his acceptance of MS. As the film came to a close, I felt his sub plot was left a little too open. You generally get the idea on how it was going to unfold. BUT two more minutes, just to round it all off, would have been a bit better.

Apart from that little niggle and the pace slightly dipping in the odd part, I was engrossed, engaged and interested.

The closing moments, dare I admit it, had a little tear in the eye. Someone must have sprayed something in the cinema.

It’s charming, funny, endearing and brilliantly acted.

A perfect formula for any film and certainly worth your time.

4/5

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT REVIEW

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There’s a little bit of magic in the cast BUT apart from that the moonlight just revealed all the flaws with this dated affair, old sport.

Not my best summary.

Despite the age gap, Colin Firth and Emma Stone have good chemistry and make this easy going and predictable 20s flick more than watchable.

So what is it about? An illusionist (Firth) is brought in to help unmask a possible swindle with a young “spiritualist” (Stone). To make matters worse, he might be falling for her.

I will admit that I’m not the biggest Woody Allen fan. I really feel that his work is overrated.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed some of his films. I actually didn’t mind Match Point and Vicky Christina Barcelona. But did Woody Allen use my love for ScarJo against me?

Colin Firth was superb as the deluded egotist and illusionist Stanley.

His quick quips and sarcastic commentary certainly made him a monster cut from the same cloth as Blue Jasmine (Another Allen flick I enjoyed).

Allen and cinematographer Darius Khondji capture the look and feel of the 20s perfectly. Magic In the Moonlight is rich with that nostalgia for the classics.

It’s good to see Simon McBurney getting more screen time. I’ve been a fan of him for some time. His performance as the Arch Deacon in Rev being a particular highlight.

He sweeps into the scene with his sly grin and slithery charm in the form of an old university colleague, Howard Burkan.

Setting Stanley on his journey with a wager. A wager to try and expose Sophie the spiritualist as a fraud.

It’s all rather tame, easy going and delivers the odd chuckle as Stanley goes out of his way to upset the fools that celebrate this so-called spiritualist.

Hamish Linklater played the love struck and incredibly gullible Brice Catledge brilliantly.

Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist/Flubber) was a little flat. She has proven in the past that she can play a strong supporting role and play it well but her mother figure was highly unmemorable.

Eileen Atkins (Doc Martin) was very good as Stanley’s Aunt Vanessa. Providing a little more depth and understanding to her heavily armoured nephew.

BUT it’s all so predictable which makes it all a little drab.

The beautiful sunshine and the picturesque French coastline is still a sight to behold. Instantly making me want to go on holiday and distracting me from scribbling on my critical clipboard.

Firth delivers enough charisma to carry the film. Until he meets Sophie.

The spiritual sessions are entertaining enough as you sit there with Stanley trying to work out if it is a con or real.

The effects aren’t that bad either but this is essentially a theatrical piece.

The whole philosophical debates about the afterlife was interesting enough for twenty minutes and made for some fiery exchanges between the two leads.

BUT after a while, that’s all they do. Talk and bicker about life, death, love and beliefs.

I can see what Allen was trying to do but it just got a little irritating, long winded and a bit pretentious for me.

At first glance, I thought that only a friendship was going to blossom between the pair because of the steep age gap.

I don’t think it helped that Stone’s outfits made her look a little too young. I’m not sure whether that was Allen’s intention.

The change in tone as their relationship transforms to possibly something more came off a little uneven.

Stone and Firth did enough to make it believable. But if I’m honest, it wasn’t necessary and it made the final outcome so predictable and cheesy.

Stone is in very high demand and for the majority of her performance, I could see why. There were moments where her little spiritual tricks went on a bit and she did begin to get on my nerves.

She can’t dance. Well, jive anyway. Her improvised moves in a jazz club had me cringing.

The ending was very much like the classics. And that was the problem. The dated and corny moments we laugh at now with the oldies only added to their charm.

However, when you try and rekindle that in a modern reworking, it just doesn’t come off quite as well as you hope.

The final moments were very hammy. That charm coming off a little tacky. I tutted and shook my head. A guilty smile sneaking across my face for the attempt.

An easy going, charming little time filler with two stellar performances. Just don’t expect too much.

2.5/5

GODZILLA REVIEW

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Godzilla? God help us. I really wanted this to work but yet again another reboot fails to hit the mark by it’s hero’s gargantuan tail. A drawn out, plot holed mess that if not for a promising 15 minute finale would have been a complete fossil. This poor piece of dino doodoo goes out with a yawn than a ROAR!

When I heard that Gareth Edwards, the man who gave us the low budgeted apocalyptic cult creature feature Monsters, had been green lit to direct the Godzilla reboot, I was excited. Monsters gave us a taster of his visual brilliance. Granted the story was nothing new but give him the right material and a bigger budget and Godzilla could be something. It is such a shame that I report that even with an impressive cast, this film will sink and should stay in the underwater prison that kept Godzilla away for most of the movie (You read that right).

Bryan Cranston does his best to make the technical mumbo jumbo sound interesting and plausible. Hell, the guy even speaks Japanese. But you can’t help but feel it’s just Hal from Malcolm in the Middle as an engineer. Especially when he is running, panting, and screaming quite high pitched. It’s all unintentionally hilarious. I mean it was always going to be hard for Cranston to find a suitable follow up project after the excellent Breaking Bad.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I actually preferred it’s ridiculously corny and OTT 1998 blockbuster brother, Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla. It deliberately poked fun at the hokey concept while this takes itself far too seriously (which wasn’t a problem to begin with. I mean if Christopher Nolan can do it, why not?). It just highlights the number of plot holes in the loose story line to give the humans something to do. Look I don’t care about the concept of a giant dinosaur causing havoc on the world’s major landmarks. But the problem when you have giant dinosaurs or robots (I’m looking at you, Transformers) that can survive nuclear bombs (pretty much the biggest weapon we can launch at the buggers), the only thing the human race can do as Ken Wantanabe rightly says, “Let them fight.”

Edwards obviously intended to wet our whistles, stalling the inevitable appearance of the gargantuan giant. I’m fine with that but not when we are left with naff, generic character regurgitating scientific mumbo jumbo that bores the living stuffing out of you. I mean a beautifully shot scientific expedition with Ken Wantanabe (The Last Samurai/Batman Begins) and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) that skims across The Philippines and Japan teases us with a dino skeleton here, a trail of destruction there but as you’re waiting for the hero, you realise there is no point in the scientist’s journey as it makes no sense and is completely necessary. That big budget being put to use. Alexandre Desplat’s score is suspenseful and pacey but there isn’t much suspense or tension to keep you hooked.

I mean the opening sequence with the redacted 1950s footage was a complete rip off of the Emmerich rehash. I won’t spoil too much. That being said, there wasn’t much to spoil. This was advertised all wrong. The main creatures that we are stuck following are mutated parasites, well giant cockroach things that feed off radiation and it’s up to good ol’ Zilla to sort them out. At a two hour running time, there just isn’t enough going on. Every time we see those cockroach things, we get two minutes of carnage then they fly off to another expensive location for more blockbuster budget spending. When Godzilla finally appears, the animation and visual effects are impeccable, from his expressions to his incredibly loud roar. Seriously I nearly went deaf in the cinema.

But every time he looks like he’s going to do something. The camera cuts away or flashes to the aftermath. Screw that, I want to see it! Instead we get a rather hench looking army chughead Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) sleepwalking through his lines as he suffers daddy issues with his paranoid skeptic of a father, Mr Bryan Cranston. Cranston’s angry scientist was the only thing worth watching in between the creatures popping up as if to say, “We will be fighting . . . eventually”. An unexpected twist got my attention, only to leave it open for more . . . monotonous drivel that went nowhere. Wantanabe looking white as a sheet petrified of Godzilla just becomes a parody in itself. The talented David Straitharn (The Bourne Ultimatum/Alphas) plays a stocky grunting general that asks the main question every film goer is thinking, “Where’s Godzilla?”. A character that has spawned numerous movies and hit movie history is left making a short 15 minute appearance for the “big finale”.

The little details soon irritate. When you first see the tip of his spine arise out of the ocean like something out of Jaws, a smile cracks but after half an hour, you end up screaming (quite ironically), “Get out of the water!”. When Big G gets to fight, the special effects are brilliant. But I can’t help feel that it’s a little too dark (in the visual sense, literally) to see what’s going on.

The fighting does appeared laboured and mechanical but that’s where the fun came from the classics. The special effects do nothing to spoil that. In fact they improve it. I wouldn’t waste your money on 3D, apart from the opening, where smoke and ash rains out the screen, everything else is just a little more prominent but not a massive investment.

The HALO jumping sequence was decent, especially when it flicked to the first person angle, in which we see the soldiers dive out of the plane into the ensuing fog and debris left by Godzilla and co. However, when you think back, they didn’t need to do it. Seriously.

Unfortunately, before people realise the mess that this film is, it will have already made its money and a sequel has already been green lit. But this offering has not heightened my excitement to fish out the next one. Edwards excels at the effects yet again but the love of God, give us some characters we care about.

It doesn’t offer anything for the leading ladies at all. I mean Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) had such a pointless part, anyone could have played her. The same can be said for the beautiful Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy remake), who was left either staring blankly, screaming or waiting on the phone. A shame. This had all the potential to start the blockbuster season with a BANG but only went with a BOO! Let’s hope X Men or Transformers can reward our patience. 2/5 for me.

As a side note, how cool would it have been if Heisenberg squares up to Godzilla and screams, “SAY MY NAME!”. To which Godzilla roars in subtitles, “HEISENBERG”. Then skulks away. “THIS IS MY TERRITORY!”. Maybe it will be in The Director’s Cut?!

Currently ranks #117 out of 174!