*NEW* MANCHESTER BY THE SEA REVIEW *NEW*

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A wonderfully acted emotionally packed drama.

An uncle (Casey Affleck) is asked to take care of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges) after the boy’s father (Kyle Chandler) dies.

It’s always a pleasure when a film can surpass your expectations and reward you with something so much more.

It was funny that I was complaining about the La La Land hype with this entry coming in a swift second on the overbearing hype train.

BUT I have to say, this was brilliant.

Casey Affleck has always played strange roles from introverted wackos to isolated loners. This role was perfect for him. He made the socially awkward Lee work a treat.

The slow burning style allowed the drama to unfold perfectly.

We followed Lee as he trundled along his humdrum lifestyle of a janitor at an apartment building. The mundane tasks, the strange tenants, the complaining and weird requests. A ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

The news of his brother’s passing triggering flashbacks. Flicking back and forth between the past and present as we got a better understanding of Lee and the reasons behind his fractious relationship with his nephew.

Baffled to be awarded guardianship after all that had happened. I hadn’t read anything about this film and the revelations with Lee’s past completely surprised me. Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

Lonergan has written a heartfelt story that dealt with grief on such levels. It was almost real.

The awkward exchanges as Lee had to deal with depressing funeral arrangements, idle chit chat and various reactions from people as they learnt of his brother’s passing. It couldn’t be more in tune.

It is a huge gamble to make a 2 and a half hour movie that relies solely on two leads. BUT I don’t think it would worked without Hedges and Affleck. They were brilliant.

The power of a performance that can deliver such emotion that you get caught up in it. There were several scenes that actually got to me. I felt for all of them. Affleck deserved that BAFTA.

It was surprisingly funny, upsetting and dark. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions as did our protagonist. Struggling to communicate with an awkward teenager who was more concerned about his social lifestyle than his father’s death.

The tension bubbling away as Lee, a creature of comforts, seemed desperate to get back to his quiet life. Of course, he had his reasons.

A scene involving frozen meat triggered an unexpected breakdown out of the blue with the pair finally coming to terms with their feelings. I laughed, I cried. Superb.

I remembered Lonergan’s last effort Margaret being one for a testing pace and I know a lot of people grumbled about the pace of this one. BUT I can’t even say this dragged. I was completely engrossed with the characters and the drama. I wanted more.

The supporting cast played their parts perfectly. Michelle Williams wasn’t in this enough. From all the hype, I expected her to be in this for a good portion of the film. Her screen time probably only accumulated to 15/20 minutes?

BUT she was excellent as Lee’s ex-wife. Their reunion was heartbreaking as we realised that Lee was a man tormented by his own demons long before the news of his estranged brother’s death.

Always happy to see Mr Friday Night Lights Kyle Chandler get more screen time as Lee’s brother. Gretchen Mol (Boardwalk Empire) delivered as his volatile widow and I didn’t expect to see Matthew Broderick pop up in this?

Despite my praise, I still had my grumbles. I’m not sure whether it was the cinema surround sound BUT I found Lesley Barber’s music score overbearing. It didn’t take away the emotional impact of the scene BUT I found myself getting increasingly irritated.

It felt like someone was playing with the volume (Maybe they were. I did watch it in forum).

It was only the final act that disappointed me. And that was because it didn’t go in the direction I wanted. Forever a cynical optimist (Yeah, work that one out). Hoping for a happily ever after for the troubled pair.

BUT as the credits rolled (and a little more discussion after), I couldn’t see any other way that the story could end. It worked.

I went expecting in nothing and came out rewarded with a brilliantly acted and well written drama that dealt with grief on many levels.

It is a little gloomy BUT if you’re in the mood for a drama that delivers on the feels, look no further.

4/5

*NEW* THE FINEST HOURS REVIEW *NEW*

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Disney’s dullest hours, more like.

The Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952.

A great cast do their best to save this wishy-washy TV movie from being nothing more than a total wash-out. The opening didn’t get things going with a ridiculously cheesy first date between Pine’s Bernie Webber and Holliday Grainger’s Miriam. There was good chemistry between the pair BUT it was far too schmaltzy and frankly unnecessary.

It was strange to see Chris Pine (Star Trek) in a much more subdued role. A fresh change. BUT all the dancing and wedding proposal guff between the couple felt like nothing more than filler before the proper drama kicked off. Tragically, that took a good 30 minutes to happen.

From his fed up expressions and exasperated demeanour, I expected Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone) to deliver a really dull performance BUT he was actually quite good. You rooted for the chap as he did everything to keep the tanker from sinking. Michael Raymond-James (Once Upon A Time) was probably the only other memorable crew member. Even if he did play the stereotypical mutineer causing panic among the ranks.

BUT it was all far too corny and laughable. Graham McTavish (The Hobbit) bellowing cliched macho sentiments to generic and unmemorable supporting characters didn’t help. The Chinese whisper sequence with the crew sharing coordinates was unintentionally comical.

Considering the amount of stars in this; the characters were very weak. Pine did everything he could BUT he came off as such a shy simpleton that relied heavily on sheer luck. Miraculously finding the stranded tanker by feeling the waves. Really?

Eric Bana (Black Hawk Dawn) was completely wasted as Daniel Cluff. There was potential. A new captain unfamiliar with the terrain and struggling to control his men. BUT he was very much in the background. Other than sending a whimpering Miriam out into the cold, he was useless.

All the maritime jargon and endless wave surfing didn’t do anything to keep my interest. I was only really hooked when the tanker continued to plunge further into disarray BUT even the Perfect Storm-esque sequences soon dragged on. The CGI got increasingly worse as the little tug boat rode the cartoony waves. The camera work was difficult and disorienting. If the effect was to make you feel sea sick then well done.

This was supposed to be in 3D. Barely anything jumped out or grabbed my attention to warrant it. There wasn’t enough tension, suspense or drama to keep things afloat either. The corny sea songs and defiant speeches were far too cringe-inducing to be taken seriously. Grainger (The Borgias) was left wandering around in the snow with a dull subplot that dealt with a botched rescue from Burt’s past.

I couldn’t help BUT think of Cast Away as the rescue team battled the relentless waves. I realized that I was more engaged in seeing a mad man and his volleyball survive than the people in this flick. The closing act did (finally) deliver a watchable affair as the rescue attempt unfolded.

If the story was true then I couldn’t believe that a rag tag team of inexperienced sea men (Easy now) were able to defy such odds. BUT even after that tense little encounter, it all fizzled out rather quickly and flatly. Leading to a dreadfully dull and incredibly corny finale. The only real surprise that I got out of this was that this was a Disney movie.

Watchable. BUT I fear that if the cast weren’t attached to this then it would have been nothing more than a TV movie at best. Disappointing.

2.5/5

INTERSTELLAR REVIEW

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STELLAR casting and special effects. Shame, I just wasn’t INTER it.

I know. Not my best. BUT here we are. Well, certainly hyped. BUT did that hype help or hinder? There’s only one way to find out.

Christopher Nolan tackles the sci-fi genre in one of his most ambitious projects to date and . . . to mixed results for me.

Now for the record. I am a Nolan fan. Memento is still up there in my top movies list. Inception left me in awe. The Prestige was a well crafted thriller. I loved what he did with the Dark Knight franchise and Insomnia was an underrated crime thriller with the late great Robin Williams.

So it pains me to say that his latest offering left me unfulfilled.

I mean, science fiction isn’t my favourite genre but I love Twelve Monkeys, Blade Runner, etc.

In a nutshell, Interstellar is about a team of explorers who travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

BUT this is Christopher Nolan. And as we know, it’s never going to be that easy . . . or that simple.

He chose a perfect leading man in Matthew McConaughey. Great to see him fully resurrected from the movie scrapheap.

I will do my utmost NOT to divulge too much spoilerific information. So consider this a warning.

The opening hour was slow burning but had the slightest feel of a dystopian Signs. Thankfully without the CGI aliens allergic to water.

The idea that crop farming is a crucial asset as food and supplies are vastly running low was a scary and all too realistic premise.

I loved the satire in which the children have been re-educated into learning that man did not land on the moon, just to focus on their agricultural studies. Crazy. Delusions of grandeur no longer an option (Regardless of what conspiracy nuts think of the Moon landing).

John Lithgow was wasted in his role. He was somewhat passive and frankly unnecessary. Merely the guardian to Cooper’s kids.

Mackenzie Foy was brilliant as Murph. She worked well with McConaughey and made their fractious father/daughter relationship that much more endearing and engaging.

Murph’s fascination with a ghost in Cooper’s den made this feel more like a rural supernatural drama than a sci-fi flick.

However after an hour and some cryptic puzzle solving (keeping that as vague as I can), Cooper is soon initiated into NASA for a life-saving and utterly bonkers mission.

That did annoy me a little bit. We had all this build up for an hour or so AND THEN SUDDENLY BOOM! LIFT OFF! We’re in space.

Such a quick transition after some mind-numbing exposition about wormholes and coma-induced hyper-sleep by regular Nolan stalwart and screen icon, Michael Caine. All this scientific mumbo jumbo and not even a training montage?

Cooper is an engineer. That’s good enough for us. Chuck him on the ship. Okay . . .

Michael Caine isn’t very good at accents (AND a lot of people know that) BUT he still makes a memorable impression in his rather subdued science guy supporting role.

The cinematography of Hoyte Van Hoytema (that’s a real name) was breathtaking. A visual tour-de-force for the eyes alone. Even the desolate planet that is essentially made up of crashing waves looked stunning. This certainly rivals Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey on looks.

The second half of the film was tense, strange but hypnotic as tempers rose and theories pondered. A lot of bloody theories. Although I was intrigued by how staying on one planet for one hour would equate to 7 Earth years!  Mental!

The film score by the legendary composer Hans Zimmer complimented the atmospheric tension perfectly.

I don’t know whether it was me or the the cinema surround system BUT it was incredibly loud. So much so that it drowned out several of the characters and the scene stealers that were TARS and CASE. Seriously by the end, I wanted Zimmer to SHUT UP! I couldn’t hear what they were saying!

TARS and CASE? What the – What’s an interstellar journey across time and space without some robotic companions?!

The visual effects brought the robots to life. Their rapid wheel movements made the geek in me EEP a little. Voiced brilliantly by Bill Irwin (How The Grinch Stole Christmas) and Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds).

Irwin’s deadpan delivery made for some top notch banter between the robotic comedian and Cooper. Reducing his humour functions. I wish I could do that on a few people.

Anne Hathaway was very good as Brand. Her speech debating the ethics of love should have come off a little pretentious and long winded BUT her delivery made it highly engaging philosophical guff.

The cast was a fantastic selection BUT I felt that a few faces just blended into the background; William Devane, David Oyelowo, Casey Affleck and Wes Bentley (Oh dear!).

David Gyasi delivered a good turn as Romilly while Jessica Chastain was excellent which was crucial as the film drew to it’s mind boggling conclusion.

The quest for habitable planets did have some surprises along the way and made for some tense and exhilarating moments. A race against time as supplies and resources are running thin for our crew. Don’t worry, my lips are sealed. I ain’t saying nothing. BUT of course, there is a twist.

The twist! It’s the Nolans. Of course, there is a twist. Now, I saw it coming a mile away (Don’t mean to brag or anything). But the how? Woah. Not so much.

The explanation is crazy! Timey-wimey wormhole guff involving God knows what. Jonathan Nolan certainly put his theory of relativity into practice. BUT I felt that the deciphering and explanation went on far too long and then where I thought I had figured it out, I then didn’t and so on.

Inception had me actually stunned. This left me baffled and as I asked my colleagues what happened? I realised I did know what was going on BUT found plot holes. The scientific stuff might have been accurate but the decision making and events leading up to said twist were NOT so clear.

It didn’t help that as I went to tweet my 140 character review; the #InterstellarPlotHoles had already started trending.

The mix should have been heaven for me but it’s just didn’t deliver for me. I felt numb and had a head ache. I’m not stupid BUT this made me feel a little.

I respect the Nolans for bringing brains back to the blockbuster. It is very clever and brilliantly shot. The effects are to die for. BUT the story and pace dragged on too long for me and the final result wasn’t all it cracked up to be for me.

It’s hard not divulging plot points to quarrel elements. I mean the drone? What up with that?

It is certainly worth seeing and did something that not many films do these days. Get you thinking and talking. BUT for the right reasons? We shall see.

Timey wimey and hardcore sci-fi fans will love this. Others may feel a little bored and a little baffled. Best film of 2014? Sorry, that falls short. Different and diverse BUT also dense and difficult at times for me.

Alright, alright, alright for me.

3.5/5