*NEW* GOLD REVIEW *NEW*

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McMumbler does just enough to make this mediocre biopic alright, alright, alright.

Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), a prospector desperate for a lucky break, teams up with a similarly eager geologist (Edgar Ramirez) and sets off on a journey to find gold in the uncharted jungle of Indonesia.

First thing’s first . . .

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Right, now I’ve got that out of my system. I can review this properly.

I was actually looking forward to this. And . . .

The opening 20 minutes was painfully slow, disappointing and uninteresting as Wells scraped the bottom of the barrel.

An incredibly dull encounter with his father (A waste of Craig T Nelson) did nothing to get things going. All the metaphors in the world couldn’t liven that scene up.

A flawed protagonist fallen from grace. His family legacy gone; a respected and lucrative prospecting firm now nothing more than a made up office in a dingy bar for the remaining loyal employees. A laughing stock.

I actually struggled to understand McConaughey in the first act. It was True Detective all over again. I should have seen the Audio Described version.

His receding hair line and beer belly won’t win the ladies over. Seriously, he looked like Les Grossman from Tropic Thunder.

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I know we were supposed to see a man at his wit’s end BUT the whole “gold calling him in a dream” spiel was a little hokey. An act of desperation. One last roll of the dice. Pawning his own wife’s watch for a plane ticket to Indonesia.

Break or bust. And the rest . . . was thankfully a little bit more enjoyable.

Whether it was a case of sitting too close to the big screen, I found Robert Elswit’s grainy cinematography naff to look at.

It was great to see Martinez finally get a meatier role after popping up in minute parts (Joy, The Girl on the Train and *shudder* that Point Break remake).

He worked well with McConaughey and they made a convincing duo.

The hard grafting and turmoil in the jungle was the much needed spark as Wells bartered and borrowed every penny to get that payload. Hell, the guy even battled malaria for those precious minerals.

At one point, things were getting desperate that Acosta (Ramirez) offered clean water to the workforce in exchange for payment.

The middle act was the saving grace as the pair made the biggest score of a lifetime. You felt for Wells as everything finally fell into place BUT it wasn’t long before our good old friend Greed popped its ugly head.

You had to laugh at all the big fish trying to get a piece of the action and brown nosing the chap after years of snubbing and dismissing his reputation.

Corey Stoll (The Strain) was good as the shifty Wall Street backstabber trying to push Wells out of his cut.

I’ll know some will argue BUT once McConaughey was let loose; he proved once again why he deserved that little golden statue on his mantelpiece.

His charisma and enthusiasm kept things going as the pace stumbled along. I’m not saying his performance was perfect BUT I don’t think I would have been interested at all.

It was a little too stop-start for my liking. The Hangover style shenanigans with an Indonesian playboy millionaire felt like it was in the wrong movie. The CGI’d tiger was a little much (“I’m touching a tiger!” Really?).

Bryce Dallas Howard played the supportive wife well BUT anyone could have played her. Their relationship was far too cliched and bland. A shame, really.

Every time we went back to their melodrama, it disrupted what little momentum it had.

The alluring Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones) could have played a better femme fatale BUT Wells succumbed to her advances far too easily.

However as more people tried to get a piece of the action and Well’s ego grew that much bigger, trouble wasn’t far behind.

The murky Wall Street backdrop swallowing our hero into the abyss. The film flicked back and forth as Wells came under heavy scrutiny with his own story falling apart. Did that conversation happen? Did they even find gold?

What has Toby Kebbell got to do to get a decent movie role these days? He was completely wasted as a generic FBI agent. Woeful.

The script could have been so much better. Some of the lines McMumbler churned out just didn’t have the dramatic impact that it should have.

The final 30 minutes redeemed what was a drawn out and patchy affair.

It was intriguing, engaging and everything I expected from the rest of the film. I was actually impressed with the surprisingly ambiguous ending. I was left smiling like our bewildered protagonist.

BUT would I rush to see it again?

Meh. It was alright, alright, alright BUT nothing more.

2.5/5

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THE GOOD LIE REVIEW

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A good film.

A group of Sudanese refugees are given the chance to resettle in Kansas City, Missouri, where their encounter with an employment agency counsellor (Reese Witherspoon) forever changes their lives.

A wonderful little film that is certainly worth your attention. I originally watched this on a flight to America. I had no idea what it was about. Only that it featured Reese Witherspoon. I never expected to be rewarded with such an endearing and heart breaking story.

The opening half hour was riveting. It grabbed me from the get go. We watch in horror as a group of Sudanese children have their peaceful, tranquil village destroyed by rebel forces during the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1983.

Homes burned down and families massacred within a matter of minutes. It certainly made for sombre viewing as the children are forced to flee and attempt the walk to Kenya. Truly moving and tense as the children strive to survive the heat, the rebel forces and each other.

One child Theo (Femi Oguns) makes the ultimate sacrifice by offering himself as a recruit to the rebels while his siblings hide in a field. I only mention this little detail because it becomes part of an ongoing search for Mamere (Arnold Oceng – Adulthood).

Mamere and three other siblings- Jeremiah (Ger Duany), Paul (Emmanuel Jal), and Abital (Kuoth Wiel) manage to reach safety in an Ethiopian refugee camp. They are forever known as The Lost Children. The film then skips forward to the early 2000s as the group are chosen to go to the United States.

Issues with social services soon throws a spanner in the works as the siblings are separated; the three men are sent to Kansas City while Abital is placed in Boston. The rest of the film follows the men as they struggle to adapt to their new lives in a different culture. As well as battling exposure to drugs and dangerous animals.

As soon as the three men meet their employment agency counsellor Carrie Davis, things take a lighter turn.

Reese Witherspoon (Wild) and the lads worked really well together. Their innocence and naivety may have been a little cliched. Come on, I’ve seen Cool Runnings and Million Dollar Arm but it still made for highly watchable viewing. The Lost Children still very much at heart as they try to adapt to television, drive-thrus and supermarkets.

Carrie’s stubbornness and initial reluctance to help may have been old hat but their relationship was still an endearing one. Witherspoon was very much in the background of this flick. Merely using her star profile to get some attention to this engaging story.

I don’t think people would even have given it a look in. A shame considering how poor films have been lately that this film only got a limited release.

The job scenarios made for interesting viewing. Mamere continues to appeal for Abital’s move as well as search for his lost brother. Jeremiah’s naivety and generosity inevitably causes issues with his job at the supermarket.

His confrontation with a manager after giving away expired food to the homeless really highlighted the ugly corporate greediness that the Lost Children have never seen before. All the man wanted to do was work with the church.

Paul earns a job at a factory after his natural talent for building things. However, it isn’t long before he falls into the wrong crowd and is introduced to drugs.

The pace did dip in parts and was a little slow burning but it still made for dramatic and uplifting viewing as the film drew to a close. Just when I started to feel a little fidgety, an interesting development involving Theo led to a suspenseful border patrol encounter as Mamere tries to bring him home.

I didn’t realise how the aftermath of 9/11 would make such an impact on the immigration laws. However after such a dramatic and tense scene. The film just ends. And quite abruptly. With just a few credits explaining what happened next.

I was a little disappointed. It would have been nice to see those little credit bits. Just to round off what had been an intriguing film.

Corey Stoll (The Strain) and Witherspoon’s meagre subplot suggested that something was going on between them but it never really went anywhere. Nor was it brought up for that matter. (Thinking back to it). It seemed like a desperate attempt to add a bit of depth to Witherspoon’s already rounded character. A bit sloppy.

The cast were fantastic. It made a change to see new or virtually unknown actors taking the meatier roles. An interesting fact that I only just discovered. Duany, Jal and Wiel were all children that survived the Second Sudanese Civil War.

God knows what it must have felt like to go through that experience again. Say what you will about whether they should have for a movie.

BUT despite it’s little flaws, I was pleasantly surprised and would recommend this to anyone who wants an endearing uplifting journey of one family’s struggle.

3.5/5

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU REVIEW

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This is where I leave the cinema for a bit . . .

No, it’s not that bad. But not that great either considering the talent at Shawn Levy’s fingertips.

Levy’s projects have always been okay (Real Steel/ Date Night/The Internship). For some of you those titles might make you wince. The master of ground breaking comedy classics? Not even close.

The cast did their best with the material. It’s just a shame that the material is not that good. In all fairness, Levy takes a stab at family dramedy. But maybe he shoudn’t have.

AND if you wanted anyone to head a dysfunctional family, it would be Jason Bateman (Arrested Development/Horrible Bosses).

So what’s it all about? When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother (Jane Fonda) and their spouses and exes.

Jason Bateman was brilliant. He carried the film in my opinion. His marriage breakdown story line was hardly original but it gave an extra something to the endless childish sibling bickering that dominated the majority of the screen time. How it was all resolved was a little predictable and terribly flat but at least there were a few dramatic moments to be had.

Tina Fey didn’t really deliver as much as I hoped. I know she’s funny. Come on, 30 Rock and Date Night proved that. It felt like she played it safe and stuck with the tame script which made her highly unmemorable, bar two little scenes. She worked well with Bateman and did her best but with her comedic prowess, you expected something a little better.

Adam Driver (What If?) was a much needed comedy injection. His lines were hardly comedy gold but his delivery and style managed to get a smile out of me. His relationship with Bateman made for an entertaining and endearing one.

Connie Britton was wasted in her role. A shame after her turn in Friday Night Lights and Nashville. A nothingy character that didn’t really add anything to the mix. Nothing more than a psychiatrist MILF that Adam Driver got to show off to the family.

Speaking of nothingy role, Timothy Olyphant come on down! Absolutely gutted after his terrific performance in Justified. His character was involved in a naff subplot that didn’t really go anywhere. This is what infuriated me with TIWILY. There were so many missed opportunities with the characters and the cast to make more drama and better story lines.

I know that this was adapted from a Jonathan Tropper novel. I can’t say how faithful the film is to its source material but it certainly hasn’t made me want to read it.

Some of the gags were just plain terrible. I mean the recurring joke of the little toddler moving his potty around to poop all over the house was just not funny. The little toddler himself actually was hilarious. His improvisation with some of the cast was brilliant. They didn’t expect him to retort back. More of that would have been perfect.

But potty-ing (I know it’s not a word. I’m not wasting any time finding another) around the house and flinging poo? Awww. No. AWWW – Are you kidding me? Put your potty in the bathroom, boy. Jeez.

Anyhoo . . . The sibling rivalry and tension wasn’t badly done. Everyone can relate to it in some capacity and the moments in which they look back and experience the old nostalgia make for some nice moments. One of the gags that should have been branded as just plain lazy actually entertained me.

A scenario involving some marijuana and a synagogue classroom actually allowed for a comical encounter between Bateman, Driver and Corey Stoll (Homeland). It was great to see Stoll have a bigger role and he doesn’t do a bad job as the stubborn older brother.

Ben Schwartz was incredibly annoying as the hyperactive Rabbi Charles Grodner or Boner to everybody else. Delightful. A guest that gets a giggle and then overstays his welcome . . . in almost every scene. Not even the (usually) hilarious Kathryn Hahn (Step Brothers/We’re The Millers) could save the day with her kooky momma hell bent on getting preggers. It was weak.

And Jane Fonda . . . Apart from having fake pumped up breasts to cue inevitable breast feeding gags, she was highly unmemorable. In fact, there was a bizarre revelation that occurs nearer the end of the film which doesn’t fit in at all. It didn’t work and just completely unnecessary. It was nothing more than a lazy plot device to stop the family scrapping. The only bit of real heated drama that got me interested.

Dax Sheppard (Without A Paddle) played the two-timing sleazebag well. But is this the only character that he can play? And to be honest, when he was first introduced with the Howard Stern DJ spiel, it wasn’t funny. Just annoying as hell. It made a change for Abigail Spencer (Suits) to play a more meatier role as the cheating wife. But the story line was so hammy and predictable, it never really hit the heights that you’d hope.

Rose Byrne (Damages) and Bateman had good chemistry but their love subplot was so generic and corny that I really couldn’t care. Tropper left their little romance so open as a feeble attempt to prevent the predictable outcome but just made it flat and uninteresting.

To be honest, this film only did one thing. Well, two. Waste my time. And make me realise how good August: Osage County was. If you want a good family drama, then I’d invest your time in that instead.

There is the odd moment to be had. One chuckle here, one little heart plucker there. But memorable and entertaining? Quotable and re-watchable? Meh.

2/5

NON STOP REVIEW

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Well it didn’t make me say STOP. Hardly in-shite entertainment and it didn’t have me soaring for the exit. I went in expecting the worst and came out surprised. Neeson is back and badass BUT better?

An air marshall (Neeson) springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account.

Look, these sort of films were always going to be guilty pleasures. Being a critic, I get it. Films shouldn’t be big, dumb and cliched. BUT if you want a silly little B movie thriller that you can switch your brain off to then look no further.

The opening ticked all the boxes on the cliched checklist. Emotionally scarred air marshall harbouring a deep trauma from his past. Check. Little girl flying on her own with cute teddy bear in tow. Check. (Who in their right mind would let a kid fly on their own?). Scarred marshall becoming instant father daddy figure. Check. Stereotypically suspicious looking foreign terrorist guys. BIG CHECK!

BUT once the plane took off and Neeson’s feeble attempt at some casual banter/flirting with a neurotic Julianne Moore was done and the first creepy text was sent, it was actually quite tense, suspenseful and surprisingly watchable. The texts flashing across the screen was like something out of Hollyoaks. It annoyed me in that and it did in this. Especially as the messages got bulkier.

The guessing game ticked over for a little while BUT there are always confinements when doing a thriller on a plane. A great concept if executed properly. When Neeson initially tried to fish out the anonymous texter, it was quite clever and almost believable. The killing a passenger every 20 minutes spiel should have been done in real time. The 24 style edge would have kept my attention when the pace lagged.

It didn’t help that a talented supporting cast were wasted as dull and lifeless red herrings. Anson Mount (Currently featuring in one of my favourite shows, the underrated Hell on Wheels) was wasted in his small role. Julianne Moore did the best she could and worked well with Neeson BUT her character got too annoying as the film progressed. The lovely Michelle Docherty (Mary from Downton Abbey) was highly unmemorable. As were Scoot McNairy (Monsters) and Corey Stoll’s (Ant Man) characters’ shame.

This was always going to be a Neeson action flick. Proving that Taken wasn’t a one time thing. (Apparently it’s the only thing now). As more people get bumped off and time is ticking away, he takes matters into his own hands yet again by . . . Oh yes. That’s right. Kicking ass and taking names.

His behaviour was questionable and OTT. A marshall on the brink of destruction asked NOT to cause a panic and secretly seek out a terrorist? Come on. His character caused more problems than were necessary. Even by action movie standards. Non-Stop ended up like one big 90s throwback B-movie. Hardly a bad thing. The fight sequences were pretty good. One particular highlight being a hand to hand cubicle combat scene.

There was a lot more suspense, tension and pace than the coma-inducing Flightplan. BUT it was never going to top the epic blockbuster that was Con Air. It seemed the writers thought (as the pilot so rightly said) “F~@k it!” as the final 15 minutes climaxed into pure bedlam with slow mo gun fights in zero gravity, double crossing, triple crossing, fingers pointing and Neeson punching answers out of people. The BIG REVEAL wasn’t that surprising BUT the motive was unexpected and frankly a little strange. BUT it was never going to be that type of movie.

If you want Taken on a plane, then you’ll enjoy it. BUT if you were expecting a slow burning claustrophobic thriller then move on. No points for originality BUT NOT the worst way to kill a couple of hours.

2.5/5