THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL REVIEW

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These old dogs need to learn some new tricks if there’s going to be another one.

As the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has only a single remaining vacancy – posing a rooming predicament for two fresh arrivals – Sonny (Dev Patel) pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel.

Now, I loved the first film. It was fun, easy going, a charming little affair with a fantastic cast. When I heard that there was going to be another, I was excited. Hardly surprised after the reception the original received.

However, this outing seemed to suffer from the dreaded sequelitis. The charm offensive just about pulled it off to make it watchable. BUT I was left wanting more. A phrase I’m using far too often lately.

The opening didn’t really build my hopes up as Patel’s Sonny and Dame Maggie Smith’s Muriel barter with a boardroom of corporate drones about financing the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Smith’s rambling and raving about how Americans never serve tea properly didn’t really deliver the laughs. If anything, it annoyed the hell out of me and was dreadfully clichéd.

Look, I’m English. (What?!) Tea has always been a recurring joke but come on, we’re better than that! I still had a little guilty chuckle but when the gag kept popping up; it soon died of death.

Patel played Sonny well. But I found him a lot more irritating this time round. However, what did keep me watching was Sonny and Muriel’s relationship. A surrogate mother/son dynamic that made for hilarious and heart-warming viewing.

I felt Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle’s story line was a little too silly. I was interested in Norman and Carol’s relationship as the pair struggle to adapt to a monogamous lifestyle after playing the field for so long.

BUT all I got was a subplot that was taken out of a bad Carry On film with a drunken conversation between Norman and a taxi driver unwittingly setting up a “hit” on his partner.

I only really got some enjoyment or drama out of the pair in the closing moments. BUT it was resolved far too quickly for my liking. A shame.

Bill Nighy. A comedy legend and a talented actor in my eyes. Disappointing. He just seemed to dither and normally it worked to his advantage but I found myself getting bored of him. The whole tour gag with a young Indian lad feeding him information with a dodgy wireless ear piece has been done time and time again.

His subplot only got interesting when Penelope Wilton made a surprise appearance to upset the apple cart.

It was a surprise that Douglas (Nighy) and Evelyn’s (Dench) characters were still courting and not properly together. Inevitably a spanner is thrown in the works as Evelyn is given an opportunity to work again.

This is where it killed things for me. Dench’s absence was missed. Merely reprieved with little scenes in which we see her and a market trader bartering and dealing with the local community.

Celia Imrie’s love triangle story line was a little nothingy. Her inevitable brewing romance with the chauffeur that drove her to the two men she was seeing was predictable but easygoing.

However, she seemed to be pushed further into the background. If not for a memorable quote upon Gere’s arrival, “God have mercy on my ovaries”, I wouldn’t have known she was there.

Patel’s business venture ambitions and impending wedding certainly spiced things. Sonny’s best friend’s questionable friendship with his fiancee certainly ignited some much needed tension and drama into the mix. BUT to the same old infuriating and predictable results.

While we’re talking about predictable; the red herring hotel inspector subplot was naff. Richard Gere did his best and played the mystery man well BUT it was all so hokey. Sonny “pimping” out his mother to try and improve his review got the odd chuckle. BUT Tamsin Grieg and her shady American accent just didn’t work.

Hardly spoilerific but what was the purpose of David Strathairn’s role? He had the easiest job going. A waste of an incredibly talented actor.

It wasn’t all bad. Maggie Smith was on fine form as usual. Her sniping and complaining delivered the better moments. One perfect example being when Evelyn shares some wonderful advice with her and she simply looks at her, baffled and asks; “I’m sorry. Were you talking to me?” Priceless.

The ending certainly left things open and wasn’t without a few surprises (Don’t worry. No spoilers). And dare I say, I had a little tear.

I was able to walk out with a cheeky little grin after seeing the geriatric icons jumping up and down at the wedding reception without a care in the world.

BUT it just didn’t carry it off as well as the first. A film I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with much more.

Maybe I went in with too high an expectation this time. It was certainly watchable and there were laughs to be had, “Why die here? When I can die . . . there”.

A mixed bag of spice and naff tobacco for me. Tobacco being the stodgy story lines.

2.5/5

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HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 REVIEW

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I’d rather have had a shotgun to the d**k than endure this again . . .

That’s what I thought I was going to say.

“What is it? It’s like it’s some kind of . . . hot tub time machine”. Cue the cheeky look at the camera from Craig Robinson.

I literally watched the first installment hours before viewing this. My friends couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it. For all the hype, I expected more.

It wasn’t bad. It was nowhere as stupid as I thought it would be. BUT it got me laughing and for the right reasons. Something I haven’t been able to say for some time.

And now a sequel. Five years later and no Cusack, was it even needed? Did it manage to entertain or did we have a mindless re-tread of the same old thing but just not as good?

Well, we did have a re-tread of the same old thing but it still just about did the job.

When Lou (Rob Corddry) finds himself in trouble, Nick (Craig Robinson) and Jacob (Clark Duke) fire up the hot tub time machine in an attempt to get back to the past. But they inadvertently land in the future with Adam Jr (Adam Scott). Now they have to alter the future in order to save the past – which is really the present.

It never felt like we left them. Lou is reaping the benefits of changing the future by owning Lougle (Not Google) and the word, Um.

Um . . . You owe me money!

Nick is still having problems with his wife, Courtney. Yeah, that annoyed me the first time round but hey at least he’s a music mogul. Delivering hit after stolen hit. I gotta feeling. “Wait a minute. I think I got a song coming”.

While Jacob is wandering around a giant mansion, dressed as a butler and dealing with the fact that Lou is his father.

Corddry was everything you expected. Loud, in your face, mental and a little irritating to begin with. Just like the first one. I think that was kind of the point but he really did go on.  I prayed for something to happen to him.

Luckily, something did. For proper Hot Tub fans, the result was exactly what you’d expect. There was a lazy red herring sub plot going on in the background (Without spoiling too much) that was so boring and predictable. BUT it wasn’t long before the guys were back in the tub and causing more havoc.

I loved all the little in-jokes. You could say it was lazy but it worked. I would recommend you see the first one to understand some of the better gags. The massive squirrel statue might go over people’s heads.

As soon as the guys are getting wasted in the tub, it ticked all the boxes. The snappy one liners, the funny insults, the random mascot, Chevy!

Chevy is looking old. To be honest, his cameo was literally 30 seconds. I was hoping he would pop up throughout like the first one BUT with Jacob stocked up with the “Know How” (The “know how” being his encyclopedic knowledge of sci-fi movies), it did deem him a little unnecessary. It was still good to see ol’ Clark Griswald.

“Everything is always Terminator!” The endless sci-fi movie references to explain the timey wimey guff definitely played up my nerd side; Fringe, Looper, Back to the Future. That definitely got a titter or two out of me. “Nerrd, nerrrd and no one likes you”.

Sorry! Robinson and Corddry’s improvised nerd song every time Jacob discussed some plot exposition is a joke I know I’ll be using on my mates for the foreseeable future.

The film constantly toys with the appearance of Cusack. But I will warn you now, there is definitely NO John Cusack. His non-appearance and the constant promise of his return was as disappointing as Charlie Sheen’s no show in the Two and a Half Men finale.

I was disappointed that Cusack wasn’t in it for at least a blink and you’ll miss it cameo. I didn’t think his character was that funny but he seemed to be the anchor that weighed down this drug induced voyage from going out and out bonkers! I also expected Crispin Glover to appear with some hand related shenanigans. NO! Nadda not a zip!

Gillian Jacobs (another Community regular after Griswald) was pretty . . . good. What? She played Adam Jr’s ditsy fiance well and delivered the finest movie title reference punch line EVER! No SPOILERS but bravo!

It was a bit hokey and incredibly lazy in how they roped Adam’s son into the mix but luckily there was enough rapid one liners and shenanigans to take your attention off it.

Adam Scott managed to make his bland character a lot funnier and memorable than I expected. His taste of a new superdrug and his “God like” abilities were ludicrous, stupid but funny as hell.

The future backdrop was ripe for opportunities. The problem is they seem to go for the predictable ones. The drugs, the booze, the birds. Still funny to watch but it felt a little too much like the first.

A virtual simulation challenge in a demented reality TV show called ‘Choozy Doozy’ (a show in which the audience sets a challenge and the celebrity must do it) managed to out-gross a certain bathroom bet scene in Hot Tub. Oh yeah, that’s right. If you don’t know what I mean, good luck. Disgusting but so funny!

Hot Tub 2 cranks it up to 11. For some, it will be a breath of fresh air. For others, they’ll pull a face like they’ve just discovered a foul smell.

BUT the guys still kept it watchable. The endless “You look like . . .” gags shouldn’t have worked but they did. “You like Gandalf the poor!”, “You like you should be advising Lando Clarissian”.

The banter was on point. Lou and Jacob’s constant put downs of Nick’s future hit, “The Webber Strutt” comparing his dance moves to dick picking from a tree got a snort from this nerd.

The whole futuristic auto-piloted Smart Cars that fed off people’s emotions was an interesting concept. The thought of a car taking a hit out on Lou was funny to start with but it never really went anywhere. And then you realise, hang on. Lou is trying to be killed by a car. What?!

The last 20 minutes or so did go on. It got a whole lot crazier, a whole lot sillier (Adam Jr’s balls swell up from a sustained superdrug overdose. Cue a syringe, swearing and lots of liquid. YUCK!) and REPETITIVE.

It fizzed out and ended so ridiculously corny by the end. Lou coming to accept that he is a terrible husband, father, etc. Boo hoo. Cue an inevitable father/son confrontation with Jacob. It’s all so hammy. Look, I know the time travelling concept was always THE joke but the plot holes were just terrible.

It was reprieved slightly by an unexpected ending (that definitely hints at another) and a credit sequence that matched 22 Jump Street in bonkersville!

It doesn’t deserve the low rating it received on IMDb. It’s big, dumb, rude and stupid. BUT it delivered the laughs and killed the time. NOT perfect by any means BUT if you’re up for a laugh, it ain’t half bad.

2.5/5

GET HARD REVIEW

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It’s going to be hard to say anything good about this one.

When millionaire James King (Will Ferrell) is jailed for fraud and bound for San Quentin, he turns to Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart) to prep him to go behind bars.

Oh boy, what a mess!

It was never going to be a satirical masterpiece that tackled the issues of race and poverty. Come on. At best, it could have been something OTT, stupid but funny.

A lot of people dodged a bullet from the heavily flogged trailers but I thought, “You never know”. Won’t be saying that anytime soon.

I was a big fan of Ferrell and Hart (Notice I put was). The thought of them working together should have been comedy gold.

The premise was weak with nothing but lazy jibes about how the rich are destroying the country and naff stereotypes that have been done to death.

The racial jokes weren’t controversial but they weren’t clever either. Just went for any old area and milked it dry.

Not even the talented supporting cast made much of an impression. You know you’re onto a loser when T.I. is the only actor getting things going.

Alison Brie looked stunning. Oh my goodness. But she wasn’t funny at all. Effing and jeffing and playing a manipulative gold digger.

Don’t get me wrong. She played it as well as she could. BUT there were no laughs. A shame considering how funny we know she can be. Just look at Community and The LEGO movie. Gutted.

While Craig T Nelson just played a clichéd and uninteresting evil corporate businessman. I’m getting bored just writing about him.

John Mayer made a highly unfunny cameo. I mean, if his goal was to be a douche then bravo! But it wasn’t funny and his improvised song about Ferrell was juvenile. It didn’t help that the guy can’t act.

There were a few chuckles BUT every time that I did laugh, I then realized, “Wait. That wasn’t funny”. My anticipation getting the better of me.

My smile faded more and more as the film continued to pull every unfunny gag out of every orifice.

An impromptu teaching session at a gay hook-up spot was completely unnecessary and revolting.

“When life gives you dick, you make dick-ade” Haha. Ha- No!

Will Ferrell trying to sing songs to a penis probably sounded good on paper. BUT it was just uncomfortable viewing and not even in the guilty “I shouldn’t have laughed at that” sense.

The prosthetic penis popping up in the scene was even worse than the glory hole sequence in Unfinished Business.

When Ferrell and Hart were allowed to improvise, I was finally rewarded with what I expected in the first place!

They weren’t a bad pairing but their gags went on too long; an elongated prison sketch with Hart pretending to be three different “prison gang” members should have been a minute at a push NOT five.

Ferrell resorted to mindless swearing just to get a quick titter, “I’m going to punch you in the f**k!”.

To be honest if Ferrell hadn’t applied his delivery, I don’t think I would have laughed at all.

Hart’s role seemed a lot more straight faced. A change. It worked. Using the plot of Boyz in Da Hood as his prison cover was hilarious.

Some gags did work. Will Ferrell dressed as the lovechild of Lil’ Wayne and Tim Westwood was hilarious. Deluded to the max with an “El Mayo” emblem stamped on his head. His pose for a gang picture got a guilty smile from me.

King’s naivety in the whole fiasco could have got a lot more funnier moments out of it. Shame.

The gag in which he is forced to pick fights with people in the park was hilarious (To begin with) but the more fights he got into, the worse it got.

The endless height gags and watching Hart being used as a gym weight just bored me. Lazy.

BUT Hart being used as a prop to dispense off some unlikely foes, on the other hand. That was an unexpected sight that tickled me.

The last 20 minutes finally seemed to hit its stride and I found myself actually laughing. It was ridiculously OTT and stupid as hell but it was better than what I’d had to endure.

Ferrell and Hart fighting on a yacht was the most random thing I’d seen in some time. Ron Burgundy flailing around and dispensing foes with some strange Brazilian dance fight technique was brilliant.

The Wedding Ringer bitch slapping people and smashing them round the head with computer monitors was mental.

BUT the story was so flat, predictable and lazy that it killed any enjoyment I managed to muster out of it.

Not good enough boys.

Sloppy and unfunny for the majority of the time. If not for the two comedy actors, this wouldn’t have made the DVD bargain bin at my local corner shop.

2/5 at a push

THE MAZE RUNNER REVIEW

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AMAZE-ING?! Hardly but it did do something I didn’t expect. It surprised me.

In case that sounded familiar, I think I might have nicked a Monsters University quote. In fact, I totally did.

Anyway, here we are. Another bestselling teen novel that Hollywood can adapt and churn into a million dollar franchise. Because that’s worked for every one, right?

BUT Hollywood have finally found one that actually intrigued me, caught my attention and kept it (for most of the film). AND for a moment, I actually wanted to see more. After months of complaining about the endless teen novel adaptations overfilling the box office; Ender’s Game, Divergent, The Giver, Mortal Instruments and now The Maze Runner, someone has finally listened.

Thank you, Wes Ball (Beginners).

What helped this; A talented cast, a good story and a director who wanted to try and do something with both. It’s not perfect by any means but not bad. Not bad at all.

So what’s it all about? Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape.

The opening throws you straight into the mix. We are left just as confused (unless you’ve read the book) and disoriented as our amnesiac protagonist as he tries to piece together everything. Why the maze? Why just boys? Where are the chicks? (What?).

The special effects are fantastic. The Grievers (the creatures that roamed the Maze) were brilliant. A demented mish-mash of the aliens from Signs and the mechanical spiders from Wild Wild West.

The maze running sequences were suspenseful, pacey and brilliantly executed. The drama around the community was a little predictable but with the cast at Ball’s disposal, it made it all a little more bearable and very watchable. The inevitable macho stand-off between O’Brien’s Thomas and Will Poulter’s (We’re The Millers) Gally was cliched as hell with their heated egos clashing in a game of “Let’s see who can push each over”. Manly . . . Okay.

Poulter is certainly developing well and mastering the American accent with aplomb. Funny to think he was the little lad in Son of Rambow.

His constant head-butting with Thomas still made for good viewing. To think, I only remembered O’Brien as that sarcastic guy from The Internship. However, he delivers a charismatic and solid performance as Thomas. Which certainly helps when you are the leading man.

Aml Ameen must have been a little annoyed at how his character Alby was treated. It was almost comical. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. Thomas Brodie-Sangster (the annoying kid from Love Actually or that annoying kid from Game of Thrones) played his supporting role quite well and didn’t struggle too much with the accent.

The pace generally zipped along quite well. Throwing in a new development from one of the community members or from the maze itself when things seemed to hit a lull.

The alluring Kaya Scodelario (Skins) certainly got tempers rising (Not like that!) and started getting some of our questions answered. However, I felt her inital entry was a little corny with the inevitable “It’s a girl” and “How do we deal with one?” gags being a little tedious. But this is a teen blockbuster and a 12A.

Now I haven’t read the book and can’t say how faithful it was to the source material. But it certainly piqued my interest to have a butcher’s.

Considering the film had that 12A certificate hovering around it, it wasn’t afraid to make some brave choices. The concluding moments were quite dark. A couple of things happened that even the old cynic didn’t anticipate after the reasonably sinister but tame tone that this film first promised.

The finale *POSSIBLE SPOILERS* inevitably leaves it all open for another. The final scenes were baffling and abrupt. At first I thought Patricia Clarkson’s (The Green Mile) talking head scientist was a little nothingy and unnecessary. How wrong was I after those last few moments. BUT for all my questions, I actually wanted to see what the next installment will bring. Something that hasn’t really happened for quite a few of the other “teen bestseller blockbusters”.

Now I hope that the next part will give us more of the same BUT not the exact same (I will keep that as cryptic as possible) or else my patience will be tested. BUT for a first installment, it set the tone, set the characters and hit the ground running (What? Come on).

Suspenseful, well acted, a little corny but a pleasant surprise. Run on down to the nearest cinema and give it a go.

A strong 3/5

*THROWBACK REVIEW* BLENDED REVIEW

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If you still like or even love Adam Sandler movies, then this one is for you. For everybody else, move on. There has been a lot of cynicism and “hate-watching” surrounding his last entries. A good portion not completely unjustified. (That’s My Boy, Jack and Jill and Grown Ups 2, I’m looking at you!)

Let’s be honest, they are guilty pleasures. (Apart from Sandler’s more serious acting ventures; Reign Over Me and Punch Drunk Love). The story lines were always predictable, corny and OTT but as long as they were funny, I was happy to let that slide. I know, me letting a film slide?

So what did I make of Sandler’s latest offering? One that seemed to take a huge hit at the box office? Well, I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s actually not that bad. A vast improvement from the Grown Ups movies (I did enjoy the first one. What?). I went in, anticipating the worst and came out surprised.

So what’s it about? After a bad blind date, a man (Sandler) and woman (Drew Barrymore) find themselves stuck together at a family resort in Africa, where their attraction grows as their respective kids benefit from the burgeoning relationship. Awww . . . yuck.

Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler reunite for their third outing (The Wedding Singer/50 First Dates). The chemistry is still there and they work well together yet again. You can see at certain points that they are improvising by the cheeky grins and little jibes.

The plot set up is incredibly lazy in how the families end up in Africa. Even when I heard it, I thought why they don’t just meet up by accident? Still corny but a lot less ridiculous than Barrymore’s mate (Wendi McLendon-Covey – Rules of Engagement) giving up her vacation with Sandler’s boss and kids (the number of kids that make up the two families – yeah that’s right). Long winded and stupid.

Anyhoo, we get the set up and see both families all with their neuroses and issues; Bella Thorne battling with her sporty persona crushing her femininity as she keeps being mistaken for a boy, Barrymore’s dicey divorce and Sandler coping with loss and grief. Inevitably, both sets of kids are in need of a mother/father figure.

The divorce arguments contribute nothing to the movie as they are so predictable and you know the inevitable will happen. What was well done was how both families dealt with the issue of death and loss. A scene in which Emma Fuhrmann’s character Espn (named after Sandler’s favourite sports channel – Tut, tut, tut) saves a seat and plate for her mum is touching. Corny but touching. A well-acted scene between her and Sandler was unexpected but endearing. For the cynics, a big no, no but for everyone else, very good.

It’s not perfect. Certain jokes fall flat as a dead zebra carcass. A joke in which Barrymore struggles to carry her son and keeps bumping his head against the wall, while funny the first time, soon dies a death when she keeps doing it. If not for a punchline from Sandler, it would have been a complete write off. The inevitable ‘getting together’ of Barrymore and Sandler will always be hanging over moments where they walk away or hurt each other’s feelings.

However, there are some cracking moments and to be honest, it was the one liners that got me. Terry Crews (The Expendables/Brooklyn Nine Nine) pops up, Michael Jackson thrusting and bursting out into song with his African choir in tow every time the movie looks like its slackening. Hilarious. Some might find them irritating, I thought it was brilliant.

Along with Crews, there are a few Sandler stalwarts that pop up and provide a good old chuckle. Shaquille O’Neal as his crazy work colleague, Kevin Nealon (Weeds) as the horny vacationer and a cameo from Allen Covert (Mr Deeds/Wedding Singer/Anger Management). Shame the Schneider/Sandler cameos stopped. Was there a fall out or something? Or did they both hate each other’s movies?

Joel McHale’s (Community) character was very stocky and generic as Barrymore’s ex. The kids were irritating to begin with, but I think that was the point. They soon grow on you, eventually. Well they have to, I guess. Alyvia Alyn Lind was adorable and came out with some of the more surprising quips that got everybody chuckling.

It was great to see a Sandler film actually use some people from the community and actual country they are filming in, who get to deliver some cheeky punts at the tourists. A joke involving Brad Beckham’s resemblance to a hobbit had me in stitches.

It’s corny, cheesy, ridiculously OTT and predictable but it’s funny, at times endearing and better than you think. If you’re a cynic who likes their comedies subtle and clever, then firstly why are you reading this? Secondly, if you’re a struggling Sandler film aficionado, you might be surprised. I was.

3/5

THE BOXTROLLS REVIEW

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I laika it but I didn’t love it. From the makers of Coraline and Paranorman comes a delightfully animated, if predictable affair that certainly impresses in detail but lacks in story. Enough for the little ‘uns but I can’t help but feel that some of the darker and more satirical moments may whizz over their head and leave them fidgeting in their seats.

As I’ve said before; kids films, or should I say, family films are always a challenge. They have a lot to aspire to and must have enough pace, character and story to entertain children and adults. But normally, a good portion of the time you can bank on them to deliver the goods. Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks have proven this time and time again. They are normally the films I can rely on in the ever growing list of mediocre and plain right terrible movies I’ve had to endure this year.

Now the American stop-motion studio Laika certainly delivered with the creepy but brilliant Coraline. ParaNorman was a mixed bag. A watchable one. At its best, dark, very funny and endearing. But let’s not forget the ending wasn’t perfect. It felt like it had run out of ideas and rushed towards a corny and flat finale.

So what’s this one all about? The Boxtrolls are a community of quirky, mischievous creatures who lovingly raise an orphaned human boy named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright – Game of Thrones) in their cavernous home built beneath the streets of Cheesebridge. However, when evil exterminator, Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls. Eggs decides to venture above ground and “into the light”.

Eggs? That’s right. Eggs because that was on the box that our protagonist chose to wear. A nice touch.

The opening was a little slow and a little dark with a Boxtroll appearing to steal a child and Snatcher brokering a deal with the high class elite who appear to be wasting the town’s budget on fancy hats and rich cheese. A fun poke at the inevitable class and society issues that still plague the present day.

The little ones may find themselves fidgeting a little bit. Even I could feel my eyes looking at my watch. That is until our little cardboard creatures finally make their appearance.

The animation is fantastic. Once the little sewer gremlins emerge from their cavernous domain and begin scavenging the streets, I was in awe. Their little expressions and the detail in which they use their boxes as props to climb over gates and as cover from any passing humans. Their bickering and amusement with the rubbish dumped on the streets made them instantly loveable and entertaining.

The 3D was a complete waste of time. Thoroughly disappointing as this film would have been the perfect platform. Also pretty poor with the inflating ticket prices and decreasing cinema numbers. Do not invest.

The cast were perfectly chosen for the roles. And what a cast! Hempstead Wright has already made an impression with Game of Thrones but certainly delivers a solid voicing performance. But he was always going to fall second fiddle to the legend that is Sir Ben Kingsley. His prowess and talent just adds so much to the delightfully disgusting Archibald Snatcher. His name must surely be a nod to the infamous child villain, the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Only a more demented version, with top hat in tow, of course.

Richard Ayoade (Moss from The IT Crowd), Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) and Tracy Morgan (That’s right! 30 Rock) were brilliant as Snatcher’s numbskull henchmen who constantly try and justify with one another that they are really the good guys. Not enough of them in my opinion.

Elle Fanning (Maleficent) was fantastic as the stroppy but feisty Winnie who befriends Eggs. Jared Harris (Mad Men) and Maurice LaMarche (Futurama) were also voices that stood out in the gang of mindless elitist cheese fanatics.

The Boxtrolls is watchable and at times quite fun. The chase sequences and the encounters with the Boxtrolls were a sight to see. But for me, the story just didn’t seem to flow that well. It seemed a bit mechanical and all a bit predictable. Desperate twists and turns were pulled out of nowhere as the film meandered along.

Twists that were hardly revelatory or necessary for that matter. The whole spiel early on that the Boxtrolls were cannibalistic murderers was always going to be a bluff. Eggs and Fish (the Boxtroll who “adopted” him)’s relationship was nicely done and you could feel for the pair, even if half of the time you couldn’t understand what they were saying to one another. A running joke that happens every time Winnie demands a translation.

Eggs’ adjustment into the human world after ten years of “captivity” was an endearing and funny opportunity. His introduction to a high class social party brought the odd chuckle. But the tone seemed to be too uneven. Coraline was endearing but deliciously dark. Boxtrolls starts off dark. Goes full slapstick and cheesy. Then a little darker with a rushed and incredibly corny finale.

It felt like it wasn’t sure how far to push or how dark to be. An achilles heel for Snatcher was an unexpected twist that led to a deliciously macabre finale.

There’s enough for everyone. Silly boxtrolls for the kids (and adults) and macabre Dickensian visuals with a drop of class satire. Not bad by any means but will it stand against the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Caroline or even ParaNorman? Sadly, not for me.

3/5

THE GIVER REVIEW

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Hollywood gives us another post-apocalyptic teen franchise to sink our teeth into but does it make you want to?

In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world.

Jonas: “If I’m the receiver of memories. What does that make you?”

The Giver: “I guess I’m the giver”

Childish laughter aside (I can’t believe they actually put that in there), we are handed another sci-fi teen flick with a protagonist who battles against conformity disguised as peace by a conniving dictatorship.

It certainly zipped along and wasn’t a bad way to kill 90 minutes but as I was watching I found it incredibly tough not to make comparisons to Divergent and Ender’s Game and as it concluded, all I could think was Hollywood better quit while they’re ahead before they kill more franchises.

Director Phillip Noyce has a great cast at his disposal; a mixture of fresh talent with the experienced Oscar veterans . . . and Katie Holmes. It was a surprise to see Holmes. Released from the Cruise cage to do a spot of acting. In all fairness, she doesn’t do a bad job. Let’s be honest, her acting was never brilliant. Meryl Streep does her best to make the role of Chief Elder engaging but the character is so mechanical and one dimensional that not even the Oscar winning starlet can work her magic. A shame as Streep is remarkable. She is able to pull in some emotion with her encounters with the gruffly Giver (Jeff Bridges).

Brenton Thwaites is a likeable lead. He has certainly been making the right impressions. Just not in the right films. Oculus was a dud no matter how hard Thwaites tried. Maleficent was actually not bad but his character was a little hammy. Yes, he was Prince Charming. However, he finally gets given a character he can work with and delivers a memorable performance. One to watch. Once Jeff Bridges gets over sitting looking angry and staring out Thwaites in a chair for 15 minutes, he delivers the goods yet again.

Odeya Rush (The Odd Life of Timothy Green) is also quite likeable and has some good chemistry with Thwaites. It’s a shame that there is always an inevitable romance brewing but if you finally fight conformity and stop taking a pill that suppresses emotion (Yep. I was thinking Equilibrium too), you would suddenly feel attraction, love, etc. Just a little corny for my liking.

Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood) was surprisingly wooden and seemed to be sleep walking the role but for those you have seen the film, I think there may have been a point to that. Speaking of which, I did not expect a cameo from a particular pop star as Rosemary. Let’s just say she made a swift impression.

Ross Emery’s cinematography is to die for. His use of monochrome juxtaposed against the introduction of colour as Jonas (Thwaites) begins to experience feelings and visions was a nice touch. The panning out to view the remaining colonies was a feast for the eyes. The 1984 overtones around the film was one aspect that did keep me intrigued and the idea of censoring people’s memories and using precision of language to specify exactly what they mean is something that feels all too real. And with the way political correctness is going . . . (REDACTED)

What I hate is that they give us little tidbits in the hope that we will be interested in another installment. Wrong. I want the first installment to hit the ground running and get me wanting another. NOT think that was okay. Maybe the next one will be really good. Noyce certainly ticked the boxes on pace. 97 minutes certainly breezes by with enough content to keep you watching. But the content, despite being brilliantly shot, has been done to death and so much better. A mesh of Divergent meets Equilibrium. I mean even the process in which the kids are given positions was just a futuristic sorting hat scenario from Harry Potter.

The film seemed all too nicey nicey. Until . . . a twist. A predictable one in hindsight. But a twist that turned the cheesy overtones to something much darker and it did make for a thrilling finale. However, it all ended too quickly and flatly for my liking. Now, unfortunately I haven’t read the Lois Lowry bestseller but I have it on good authority from fans that the film remains true to the source material. In that case, I will not be rushing to get the book.

At it’s best, it’s well acted, zips along, has moments of clever satire and action. At it’s worst, it’s predictable, a mix of teen and sci-fi flicks with an inevitable foot note that reeks of “THERE WILL BE A SEQUEL”

My main gripe with films like these is that they are just being churned out with no real attempt to be different. Originality is tough these days but I think Hollywood should spend a little more time looking at the source material, making a stronger film instead of relying on the same old guff or ripping off classics in such a lazy way. This is why The Host, Mortal Instruments and Ender’s Game all failed to earn another sequel. All best selling novels with die hard fans in their own rights. It’s always tough to impress fans but you can at least try NOT yammer on with corny dialogue, poor pace or stretching out a story to milk more movies. You need to impress us with the first. IF The Giver earns one, then they better come out guns blazing. A comment I use too often. (Even for Divergent).

3 (just) out of 5