THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX REVIEW

The Cloverfield Paradozzzzz

Orbiting a planet on the brink of war, scientists test a device to solve an energy crisis, and end up face-to-face with a dark alternate reality.

Slow, disjointed and disappointing on all fronts.

The agonizing slow opening didn’t build high hopes despite Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s (Belle) best efforts. Drudging through some guff about blackouts and finding a new source of energy.

The visuals effects were impressive enough BUT it took a good 20 minutes before anything interesting actually happened. We watched as the team of cliched characters argued and scrapped after two years of failing to deliver results.

Bear McCreary’s score was wasted on this film BUT it lifted a seemingly bland and hum drum first act.

However, one final test on the accelerator changed everything as the team were inadvertently teleported to another reality (One of vast nothingness apparently).

Five minutes later, one ear piercing Godzilla like shriek and I was intrigued.

BUT instead of getting some gargantuan alien super being, we had an amnesia-ridden Elizabeth Debicki (The Man From U.N.C.L.E) trapped in a wall.

Okay, the mangled time lines and molecular restructuring had its moments as crew members fused into walls and rooms and parts of the ship moved around BUT it wasn’t enough.

I was disappointed at how such a talented cast were given such unmemorable characters.

I mean, come on! You had David Oyelowo (Selma) playing a tortured space captain that spent the majority of the film sobbing in his quarters and Ziyi Zhang (House of Flying Daggers) in one of the most unmemorable supporting roles I’ve seen. What a waste of an actress.

Even when the inevitable body count rose, I felt nothing for them.

It had so much promise BUT just didn’t amount to anything. It could have gone down the Event Horizon route, it didn’t. We could have had a demented take on 2001: A Space Odyssey, we didn’t.

Daniel Bruhl (Good Bye Lenin!) and Aksel Hennie (Headhunters) were the only memorable characters.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Only Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd) could get away with making one scene so ridiculous actually work.

The arm! My God. Seriously? If someone’s (perfectly clean) severed arm crawled across the floor like Thing out of The Addams Family; I wouldn’t be standing there pointing.

The best scene BUT also the worst as it established Paradox’s underlying problem. A lack of direction and tone. A chaotic mess. That laughable moment livened up an incredibly dull affair.

Debicki was left to wallow on a bed and reminisce about memories of Hamilton (Mbatha-Raw) from another reality. Yawnnn . . .

I was more interested in what Hamilton’s husband (Roger Davies) was doing back on Earth in the disjointed side story. It beat watching the crew go stir crazy and inevitably betray each other.

Some things are better left unanswered. I think the Paradox team should have learned from the Alien franchise.

I can respect that it tried to be something different BUT apart from that final shot, I couldn’t even call this a Cloverfield film.

It was tough NOT to make comparisons. At least 10 Cloverfield Lane gave some sort of indication that it fit in the same universe. And at least that was an absorbing thriller that made full use of its THREE protagonists.

Where did Paradox even fit in the timeline? Before or after? Was their experiment the reason that giant creature hit the city in the first place?

By the end, I didn’t care. Maybe I expected too much BUT it failed to deliver in tension, suspense and the tone was completely all over the place. It felt like the production company just nicked the Cloverfield title for click bait.

Or maybe this film was teleported from another reality where the Cloverfield movies were dire efforts that went straight to Netflix? Maybe .  . .

2/5

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*NEW* BURNT REVIEW *NEW*

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Overcooked and overdone. Let’s hope Mr Cooper has a thick skin.

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a chef who destroyed his career with drugs and diva behavior. He cleans up and returns to London, determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant that can gain three Michelin stars.

Penned by Steven Knight. Normally, I’m a big fan of the chap. Dirty Pretty Things was one of the best British films I had seen in a long time. BUT his latest offerings (Locke and Peaky Blinders) were very disappointing. Locke was an unintentionally comical showcase for Tom Hardy while Peaky Blinders (A fantastic gangster series that I had once called the best damn thing on TV) suffered from a stuttering second season.

Unfortunately (if you hadn’t gathered from that poorly punned tagline) that run has continued. Bradley Cooper does his best Gordon Ramsey impression BUT to no avail.

The first hour was actually quite watchable after a slow opening act with Cooper’s callous chef serving his “penance” by shucking out a million oysters. Yep. It really was as tedious as you think. BUT I was still intrigued to find out what Adam had done to make people detest him so much. Apparently, not a lot.

I would have preferred to see Cooper’s character burn out in the opening half than witness the dull aftermath. Some of the reasons were a little petty and boring while most of the group forgave him far too easily just because of his “reputation”. Best described using a Star Wars reference, “If he gets one more Michelin star, he’ll be like the Darth Vader of cooking”.

Cooper played it well as always. He had enough charisma to carry the piece BUT for every tense scene or engaging moment, there were a dozen cliched ones. Matthew Rhys was perfect as Adam’s old sous-chef (now bitter rival). If anything, I wished he was in it more. Their exchanges and fractious relationship was ripe for more heated confrontations. Unfortunately Knight only really scraped the surface.

And that was the problem. A great cast not used to their full potential. I couldn’t believe the amount of actors that popped up in this film. It was ridiculous. Daniel Bruhl didn’t do a bad turn as Tony. The son of a respected restaurateur trying to keep his late father’s legacy alive. The only problem was that his initial stubbornness and anger was always going to lead to the inevitable.

It was also a surprise to see Uma Thurman as a respected food critic. Shame that her character was only a passing cameo. Alicia Vikander was tragically wasted in her role. She looked stunning and had potential to cause so much more trouble for Adam. BUT it was resolved far too easily and didn’t even attempt to put out the fire burning between Cooper and Miller.

Sienna Miller and Bradley Cooper reunite once again (American Sniper). Their tense headbutting and predictable romance did enough to keep things ticking over. Cooper’s Ramsey-esque meltdown at her was brutal and nail biting. Miller was actually very good as the single mum battling to keep her catering career alive. The hokum romance did spoil things BUT their chemistry was good enough to roll out the doughy bits.

Emma Thompson was brilliant as Adam’s therapist. But heavily underused. Merely dishing out advice and keeping tabs on the recovering drug addict. A shame as the pair worked well together.

The shots of the meals and courses had my stomach rumbling. Food porn for the foodies out there. It was easygoing and pleasant enough with Adam’s tough guy demeanour finally cracking. There were even some zippy one liners; “What happened to your angel looks? Drink, cocaine and Louisiana”.

There just wasn’t enough made of the story or the cast. The second half lulled and sizzled out with a quite abrupt and corny ending. It was far too patchy, formulaic and predictable. That’s not to say it wasn’t watchable. Just disappointing.

2.5/5

THE WOMAN IN GOLD REVIEW

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The Woman in Gold or was it dark blue? Either way, go see it.

Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.

FINALLY! I’ve managed to hit a run of good films. YES!

Mirren was superb. A perfect leading lady. Ryan Reynolds was also excellent. It was good to see him play a more subdued role. A normal guy fighting against the ruthless and contradictory Austrian legal system (Or the big guy).

I’m used to watching Reynolds play the same old obnoxious fast talking douche bag archetype. It was a breath of fresh air. Some proper acting from a talented actor (I knew he could. Just check out Buried for proof).

My only niggle was that you could tell the guy doesn’t wear glasses. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. If not, my four eyed brethren will understand.

They were a great pairing. I found the pace dipped a little in parts but it still keep me hooked. The set up took a little too much time to get going but I was distracted by the enigmatic duo as we delve into Maria’s past.

The film isn’t just about a painting. I’m no art lover but I wasn’t impressed by the actual art piece for all it’s controversy. BUT the story behind this cultural icon is something else. An icon that was stolen by the Nazis and never returned to the rightful owner.

Through a series of flashbacks and narration by Mirren, we soon discover the true origins of the renowned Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting of Maria’s aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. The flashback sequences were riveting, engaging and upsetting.

The treatment of the Jews was handled delicately. We watch as Jews are forced to clean pavements with acid. Shopkeepers made to close their stores and mark JEW on their doors. The public humiliation by bystanders as their locks are cut off by Nazis.

You soon understand why Maria is so adamant not to go back. A place she vowed never to return. Max Irons (The Riot Club) and Tatiana Maslany were also very good.

It was great to see Maslany getting a meatier role on the big screen after her award winning turn in the HIGHLY recommended sleeper hit TV series Orphan Black. She played young Maria brilliantly.

I couldn’t believe how quick the majority of the Austrian community turned against one another. Giving Maria’s family up without hesitation to the Nazis. A good portion of them had attended her wedding only a few days before.

The pace soon picks up as the film flicks back and forth from the past to the present (Well, 90s). The legalities and clauses appeared a little technical but were soon explained. The only problem was once it was explained, I couldn’t believe the difficulty that the pair had to endure just to get a case together.

Stalling tactics from the conniving Austrian officials as they throw ridiculous loopholes and rolls of red tape. It was never about the money for Maria. It was about doing what was right. For family and remembrance.

Maria was even prepared to let the museum keep the portrait but only if they admitted fault. But the officials couldn’t even do that.

It was intriguing watching Randol’s (Reynolds) transformation; a struggling lawyer who took on a case originally for a quick buck. However, the journey he takes with Maria changes everything. His breakdown after visiting the cemetery and Jewish memorials that commemorated his own ancestors really hit home.

The flashbacks, after a nail biting street chase and tense encounter with border patrol, seemed to end a little abruptly. Obviously, it caught up with the present but it would have been nice to know what happened to Maria’s husband after spending a good chunk of time watching him flee from Austria. A passing comment about him from Maria felt a little flat.

The flashbacks did re-appear in the closing minutes and brought a tear as Maria finally opens about the last conversation she had with her parents. A heartbreaking moment between Maria (Maslany) and her father (Allan Corduner) made sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The supporting cast were good, if a little restricted. Katie Holmes played Randol’s wife well. But her character wasn’t really integral to the story and was very much in the background. The only roles she seems to get these days.

Daniel Bruhl was very good as the news journalist desperate to help Maria and Randol. Providing useful advice on the by-laws and using all the contacts at his disposal. It’s great to see him appearing in more mainstream Hollywood flicks. I’ve been a fan since Goodbye Lenin!

Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) had the easiest role going as Randol’s boss. The only thing that stood out for him was his commendable American accent!

The closing trial scenes were not as dramatic as I expected. I anticipated a grand trial with relentless closing arguments not a formal affair with the verdict riding on three art officials in a convention room. But the end result was still uplifting and the closing credits revealed some facts that surprised me.

Despite my little niggles, I still found The Woman in Gold a brilliantly acted and and engaging biopic that is definitely worth your time.

3.5/5

A MOST WANTED MAN REVIEW

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Philip Seymour Hoffman was definitely a most wanted man for this drab moody political thriller. A showcase and a reminder of the loss of a talented actor. The film will certainly not soil’s Hoffman’s prestigious reputation. But Anton Corbijn on the other hand . . . not so much.

A drawn out and needlessly complicated thriller that proves to be oh so simple and tedious that the 127 minute length just doesn’t justify itself or keep you engaged. It was always going to be tough to do a spy film these days, especially after nine series of Spooks, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Homeland.

The opening score and the subtle title sequence was nostalgic of the 70s political thrillers. A good sign. The moody overtone captured perfectly against the Hamburg backdrop by the cinematography of Benoit Delhomme. The story was typical John le Carre. Spies lurking in the shadows. The inevitable waiting game as a mystery man washes up on the banks of Hamburg after evading capture from Russia. Is he a terrorist? A man sneaking refuge from a torturous nation? Or a distraction for a bigger play?

The inevitable chess game as each agency fishes information out one another waiting to see who makes the first blunder or bluff revealing their intentions. Each move carefully analysed and discussed. Cryptic references and stories that are saying something without saying something. Grigoriy Dobrygin plays the mysterious Issa very well and will certainly be one to watch. However, the main scene stealer was (and was always going to be) Mr Hoffman. The opening half hour was PSH chain smoking and walking a lot of steps. It was a waiting game and believe me you felt like you were.

Hoffman is a fantastic presence along with a flawless accent. He doesn’t break out of his German twang once. The same cannot be said for Rachel McAdams who certainly gives it a punt but dips in and out. Not everybody can do it. Willem Dafoe was surprisingly good but his character was wasted as the film churned along.

The mystery soon borders on pretentious and just plain dull. Maybe Andrew Bovell and Anton Corbijn should have taken some lessons from The Lives of Others. Slow burning but tense, intriguing, hypnotic with a nail biting finale. This was just slow. Corbijn had impressed with his previous efforts: Control and, more importantly, The American. Suspenseful, tense and brilliantly shot. I understand it was adapted from Le Carre. But even some of his weaker and less renowned works still had some intrigue. The hour marker allowed Hoffman to shine and show what we will miss from him and that is his acting prowess. Delivering lines with tenacity and conviction. Pumping some life into this lead balloon.

The sense of paranoia and fear against the post 9/11 backdrop certainly provided a suitable catalyst. Robin Wright playing the American envoy who gate crashes the party was good. Sweet and supportive in one second, cruel and commanding the next. Typical. Some will smile. The fractious tension between the Americans and Germans is set up perfectly in the relationship between her and Hoffman. The film finally appears to be getting somewhere, setting things up for a tense finale, only for it . . .  to fizzle away abysmally, becoming a lazy statement that is all so predictable. Commentary that has been made time and time again.

A look into the inner working of politics between the agencies was interesting if void of suspense. PSH didn’t look particularly well. He looked rough. I mean he never was the epitome of physical health but it certainly puts an air of darkness around the film, especially knowing that this was his last film to grace the silver screen. Daniel Bruhl was completely wasted in the role. A nothingy supporting role, a mere cameo that didn’t do him any justice, especially after the prolific year he has had appearing in Rush and The Fifth Estate. Anyone could have played him.

It is a good a send off as we will get for the man. The problem with these slow burning poker games, I’ve seen them done so much better. I have patience for pace if the characters are interesting enough to keep me peaked. We were watching one man as Hoffman spurned cryptic babble to a number of agencies trying to enforce their own method of politics in the veil of “counter terrorism”. Homeland proved that watching one man could be interesting but here’s the thing the man actually did something. Not hang around in a bedsit praying, whining and trying to pull a Mean Girl. (Okay, Homeland did do that too).

Dull, drawn out and desperate. For every little move, a nightclub chase here, it was crushed with one chess piece, being endless dialogue and conversation that went no where. It certainly captured the look and had a prolific star that will certainly be missed but had to little in terms of suspense and intrigue for me.

2.5/5