*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* ASSASSIN’S CREED 3D REVIEW *NEW*

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For the love of all that is holy, AVOID this movie.

Another failed video game adaptation bites the dust.

When Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin; he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society.

We’re only a couple of weeks into the new year and I already have a nominee for worst film of 2017.

On paper, I honestly thought we had a winner. Oh how wrong I was. What is it about video game movies? Why are they so bad?

They have the fan base, the concept, a plot. All packaged and ready to go and yet it still doesn’t cut the mustard.

I’m a big fan of the AC franchise. It was a crazy premise. BUT when you’re jumping off towers and free-running up buildings while disposing of targets with cool gadgets, who cared?

BUT somehow this dull and meandering affair managed to make that concept seem even more far-fetched and uninteresting.

From the opening 10 minutes, you knew what you were in for. A disappointing, disjointed and poorly CGI’d movie.

Now credit where it’s due. The writers actually kept to the story line. The only problem was that (as a gamer) those were the bits I’d skip. If it didn’t have anything to do with training or the Assassins, that START button was getting a hammering.

It didn’t help that it took itself too far seriously. Cal’s drawn out back story didn’t really set the tempo. And that was the problem, it never really got going!

His mother was bumped off (for no valid reason). We had mindless exposition and dull dialogue as Fassbender did his utmost to keep things watchable.

I still think he was the right choice for the role. I just wish he had better material. I was 30 minutes in and already nodding off!

Even when Cal was picked up by the sinister Illuminati-esque Abstergo Organisation, it was hard going. They managed to make all the fun stuff with the Animus a bloody chore.

A talented cast squandered. Not even Jeremy Irons and Marion Cotillard could save the day. Cotillard was wasted in her role. Anyone could have played her.

Irons did fare a little better and could have been an excellent adversary. BUT he was pushed into the background far too much. And by the time he was brought back for the shambolic finale, he was nothing more than a quick witted panto villain.

Charlotte Rampling was completely unnecessary as the leader of the Illuminati . . . Or whatever she was supposed to be. Brendan Gleeson actually looked like he was on drugs in his meaningless cameo.

There was one thing that bugged the hell out of me the most. What’s the title of the film? ASSASSIN’S CREED. So where the hell were the ASSASSINS?!

The mixed CGI effects and frantic camera work may have been disorienting to watch BUT, at least, it was entertaining.

When the assassins were able to do their thing, it was watchable. The rooftop chase was exactly like the game play. A real shame that we had only two or three sequences. Not enough wall sprinting and hay jumping for my liking.

The 3D was a waste of time. It definitely wasn’t worth the money for bits of wood and the occasional arrow flying out at you. Dreadful.

Every time that blasted eagle soared across Adam Arkapaw’s horribly grainy 15th Century Madrid, it just reminded me how much of an eye sore the visual effects really were.

Even the infamous “leap of faith” was a massive let down. It was either disrupted by a quick flick back to Cal messing around with the Animus or hampered down with blurry CGI.

It failed to impress on both fronts with the present AND the Assassin stuff. Throwing in characters you couldn’t care about.

There was a really flimsy and cliched relationship between the assassins Aguilar and Maria (Ariane Labed) that went no where. No memorable villain. Just a stocky armour-clad henchman and a lechy monk with a really bad bald piece.

Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire) and his highly unmemorable bunch of Abstergo inmates were a complete waste of time. All they did was moan at Cal and waffle on about the Apple. A stupid relic that can end free will. Yawn.

IT JUST DIDN’T WORK. By the time the closing credits rolled, I felt as empty and angry as the protagonist.

And once Justin Kurzel’s name flashed across the screen, the die was cast. Reuniting with Fassbender and Cotillard to fail with another adaptation. First Shakespeare, now one of the highest grossing video game franchises in the last decade.

Third time’s the charm? I wouldn’t bank on it.

The cast did their best BUT they were always going to fall short. Poorly executed, dreadful CGI, a meandering pace makes this one to AVOID.

The only good thing to come out of this was that it made me want to revisit the old games.

2/5 (Just)

*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

EDGE OF TOMORROW REVIEW

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The End of Tom Cruise? Not today. This little timey wimey special effects action flick is pretty much Groundhog Day meets a 12A equivalent of Starship Troopers. If that sounds terrible, then move on. If not, welcome.

If you love the Cruise, he still does his best and proves yet again that he can still be the leading man. If you don’t, well you get to see him die 200 times so win-win. To call this a blockbuster with brains is a little bit of an overstatement. To me a blockbuster with brains was Inception or The Matrix (Well the first instalment anyway).

It’s certainly delivers a different premise. But as typical timey wimey spiel goes, the plot holes still rear their ugly head. Despite being written by the legendary scriptwriter that is Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects/Jack Reacher/Jack and the Giant Pile of Sh -)

For every little plot point about the rapid Squidee like alien entities terrorising the beaches of Normandy, I couldn’t help but think . . .  oh, no wait a minute. Hmmm . . . That doesn’t make sense.

The D-Dayesque battle may be a little bit mocking. I say satirical, if a little lazy but the special effects are fantastic and the 3D sequences really shine, especially when those Squidee things scuttle about with their mechanical legs (shudder). Cruise and the BEA-utiful Emily Blunt are a good pair together and share some decent chemistry.

It isn’t really that schmaltzy or thrown in your face. Quite subtle as these big luvvy duvvy blockbusters go. It was interesting to see Cruise’s character actually turning out at the beginning (not a spoiler – DON’T PANIC) an egotistical media whore who is forced into using the very weapons he’s been flogging on the battlefield.

It all zips along quite well and once the timey wimey thing kicks in (without divulging the plot) it gets crazy, at times quite funny but eventually after an hour of it, a little tedious. It’s weird because I loved Source Code and Groundhog Day, which this film is very much like.

However, after you’ve seen Cruise reboot a few times and experience deja-vu, it gets a little annoying. Understandably, if you were ever in that position, it would be but as a viewer, come on. BUT, a few twists and turns, and we are back on track for a fast paced, exhilarating finale which may have been a little too abrupt.

Doug Liman (Jumper/The Bourne Identity) manages to bring an entertaining, if flawed, blockbuster that does rise above the number of duds that have disgraced the silver screen this summer . . . so far. And it’s a vast, vast improvement from Jumper. I was also surprised at the talented supporting cast.

Bill Paxton playing the slick toothed Sargeant. Game over, man (See what I did there). The legendary, if limited, Brendan Gleeson (The Guard/In Bruges) playing a corrupt military figure to perfection. But at the same time, did anyone else feel that he looked like he couldn’t be arsed? No? Moving on . . .

There was a number of British actors popping up in this. I mean, obviously it was a UK/US collaboration but still, great to see them making a mark.

Jonas Armstrong (Robin Hood), Tony Way (Ali G), Franz Drameh (Attack the Block) all managed to make memorable grunts. Charlotte Riley (Martina Cole’s The Take) unfortunately did for all the wrong reasons with her horrific American accent and strange face pulling. Ripley gone wrong, maybe.

Laura Pulver (Sherlock/Da Vinci’s Demons) in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo? Was her scenes removed in the final cut or something? Or was she in the studio at the time? Strange. Noah Taylor finally reappearing (probably something to do with a recent appearance in a certain Game of Thrones) in a somewhat subdued role.

All in all, not bad, if a little overhyped. At its best; fast, action packed, entertaining, at its worst; all gloss not enough lacquer on the inner workings and character depth and a little rushed by the end. Run out of steam?

Well I got two things out of it; Tom Cruise screaming like a little bitch and Emily Blunt . . . she will be my future wife. What?

But still worth a gander 3.5 (just) out of 5 for me! Currently ranks 36 out of 183!