TOMORROWLAND – A WORLD BEYOND REVIEW

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To-bore-o-land?

Bound by a shared destiny, a teen (Britt Robertson) bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor (George Clooney) embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.

Whaaaattt? Yeah, it’s a little dense. The Cloonster and Disney team up. To mixed results. At its best, an exhilarating action packed thrill ride. At its worst, a meandering, overlong piece that gets too bogged down with the timey wimey stuff.

Brought to you by the director of The Incredibles and one of the writers of LOST. For quite a few of you that might trigger mixed reactions. Brad Bird certainly knows how to deliver an action set piece. BUT Lindelof? He knows how to make a story so complex. Unnecessarily most of the time.

As soon as the film started with Clooney and Robertson’s characters bickering over how they should tell the story, I could feel my excitement dropping. The squabbling went on too long and wasn’t even that funny. Not a great opener.

BUT once the pair got over their storytelling techniques and the flashbacks began, I was strapped in. The complex premise slowly set up. Easygoing, charming and oh so frantic. Typical Brad Bird. We look back into Clooney’s past and see his younger counterpart attending the World Fair and getting introduced to the mysterious Tomorrowland.

Look, I know it’s a Disney film but how much merchandise and promotion did they want to flog in this? Seriously, it was hilarious. I won’t spoil anything. It is a small world after all 😉 Although nice try, Mr Bird. Keep a watchful eye on some sneaky Incredibles and Iron Giant memorabilia.

The special effects were outstanding. A visual feast for the eyes. Disney missed out on a trick by not letting this feature in 3D. There were moments where I actually flinched. Rockets and jet packs flying at you from the screen.

Raffey Cassidy delivered a sterling turn as Athena. The one who sets Clooney and Robertson on their destined paths. With an already impressive filmography; Snow White and the Huntsman, Dark Shadows and Mr Selfridge, she will be one to watch for the future.

It’s always tough for a child actor to make the right impression. Especially when their character is crucial to the story. If they don’t win you over, it’s hard to care what happens. Her delivery may have been a little shaky to start but it was still a good performance.

It took a good 45 minutes before Clooney was really introduced into the mix. Confidence in a young cast. Robertson didn’t do a bad job. I just found her character a little irritating. Her OTT optimistic attitude was a little too sugary sweet for my liking.

Clooney certainly got things going. He has proven before that he is up for a laugh and goes along with the ridiculousness without question. He plays the cliched bitter old man well.

The action set pieces were superb. Picking up the pace when things seemed to lull. The introduction of the robo-cops felt like something out of Terminator 2. No! Not that Robocop. The eerily white teethed Matthew MacCaull certainly added a creepy vibe to the timey teen pic. Their high tech gadgetry was crazy. Disintegrating people into matter without a second thought.

I wondered why this film was given a 12A certificate until half way through. The violence may have been OTT and the guards are robots BUT I didn’t expect to see Robertson bludgeoning one to death. Smashing his head in repeatedly for a good 30 seconds. Probably not suitable viewing for the little ‘uns.

This has teen viewing stamped all over it. A little bit violent and a little bit more going on but nowhere near as demented, apocalyptic and dark as it could have been. BUT come on, it’s Disney.

The closing 30 minutes seemed to meander off and went out with a whimper NOT a bang. After all the mystery and mad inter dimensional mumbo jumbo and a crazy shuttle launch sequence involving the Eiffel Tower, the payoff just wasn’t as complicated as it made out nor as rewarding. If anything it was quite simple and really predictable. I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case.

It was certainly watchable and for the majority of the screen time, I was engrossed. Hell, I got to see the ultimate stand off between two of the most iconic TV docs. ER’s Doug Ross vs. Gregory House. Hugh Laurie was good as Nix but his character was a bit nothingy and felt more like a panto villain. Dispensing his guards and then just waiting. Or scowling.

I won’t say too much about the plot but I’m glad that Lindelof and Bird got the balance right with Athena and Clooney’s relationship. Something that could have come off awkward and a little weird if delivered the wrong way.

Lindelof really needs to work on his endings. And no! That is NOT a angry swipe from a LOST fan. It isn’t! I swear. Just look at Prometheus. For all the timey wimey mystery and crazy theories, I was hoping for something a little more spectacular.

Also a quick question for Mr Bird. Was Judy Greer’s part cut? A talented actress reduced to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo? A waste of a talented supporting actress.

It’s frantic, action packed, riveting but also on far too long. I respect Disney for at least trying to do something original instead of another mindless remake or rehash.

It’s just a shame that the film got too caught up in the science stuff that it lost the fun and charm that had it kept it going.

Not bad but a little disappointing. Still not the worst way to kill two hours.

3/5

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BIG EYES REVIEW

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Tim Burton goes back to basics with one of his most conventional films to date.

With mixed results but it’s still worth a watch.

Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz were superb. They had good chemistry and played the roles with aplomb.

So what’s it about? Big Eyes is a drama about the awakening of painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband (Christoph Waltz), who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.

The cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel delivered a sunny glossy feel and complimented the tone of the film perfectly.

I was surprised that Burton had directed this. It’s so . . . normal.

Beneath the surface of Burton’s wacky and macabre collections were conventional stories BUT it was always the fantastical elements that stood out for me. Edward Scissorhands being a perfect example.

Granted. The last few efforts from Burton have been lacklustre to say the least. Alice in Wonderland was fun BUT missed the mark and Dark Shadows . . . Well.

Don’t get me started. You know you’re onto a loser when not even the legendary Johnny Depp can save the day.

This is a return of sorts with two cracking leads and an interesting biopic.

I wasn’t familiar with Margaret Keane but I was with her work.

The opening was easy going and zipped along as we follow Keane and her daughter as they try and start again. I think it helps to have a little context.

Back in the 50s, a divorce was a taboo subject. And then to have a woman try and apply for a job that wasn’t a typist or secretary, well get out of town.

We see Keane’s struggle as she tries to earn some income to keep a roof over her daughter’s head, while practicing her craft.

Danny Huston’s (X Men Origins: Wolverine) journo voice over was a little irritating. Talented an actor he may be. I found his presence unnecessary by the closing minutes. Merely a reference point to confirm that certain scenes happened.

All he did was spell things out that we already knew or were about to discover. A pointless character if I’m frank.

Adams’ Southern drawl was a little disjointed to start with but she soon adjusts to the role and delivers another solid performance.

Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad) was very good as Margaret’s sassy BFF DeeAnn. To be honest, I wanted more of her. (Steady now!)

Her supporting role was too small. She instantly made an impression and I was hoping for more of a clash between her and Waltz’s Walter. Her intuition sensing that something wasn’t right from the get go.

Waltz and Adams worked well together and made a good pairing. It certainly made the predictable union a lot more bearable.

It was interesting to see how a little white lie to sell one street painting became a decade long charade.

Waltz played the snake charmer that was Walter brilliantly.

The whole debate that a painting wouldn’t sell if the artist was female was crazy. And not completely unbelievable back in the 50s.

BUT Margaret’s one moment of hesitance soon became a prison sentence. Reduced to painting in the loft or being locked away in a private studio adjoined to their expensive villa to hide their secret.

There were a few twists that crept out of the woodwork. One I wanted explaining a little more. The sudden bombshell that Walter had another child from a former marriage wasn’t really covered.

Merely pulled out to break up the lull that this film seemed to be heading in.

Another twist was a little predictable but the discovery was still intriguing enough.

Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) was funny as the snobby art dealer who snubbed Keane’s works and continued to do so even when it was a hit! Again, not enough of him. A mere cameo.

Waltz was able to balance the volatile behaviour of Walter very well. A smooth talker one second, an explosive drunkard the next.

Terence Stamp played the cynical art cynic as well as he could but he was merely the catalyst to antagonize Walter and push Margaret to realise (at last) that her dream man wasn’t all he cracked up to be.

The child actors that were hired to play Margaret’s daughters left a little to be desired.

My mum may be hard of hearing BUT even I couldn’t decipher what Madeleine Arthur (The Tomorrow People) was mumbling about. Understandably this was Margaret’s story but they were very one dimensional.

When Margaret decides to come clean, the drama does heat up BUT I felt certain moments went a little off kilter.

Margaret’s sudden religious awakening didn’t really come off as well as I think it was supposed to.

The appeal of living a life telling the truth certainly spurred her to take legal action but it came off a little hammy. If that is what happened then I can’t pick at it too much BUT it did feel a little disjointed.

The court case in the final minutes was a little too comical. The tone seemed to go all over the place. I felt Waltz was allowed a little too much freedom and his one man prosecution act was incredibly OTT and didn’t fit with the film.

And inevitably, the trial verdict soon relied on one vital piece of evidence with a predictable and flat outcome.

The contents of this biopic and the tone was something I expected to see more in a TV movie.

I also felt that Burton was restricted in applying his magic. The supermarket sequence in which Margaret sees everyone with BIG EYES was more along the lines of what I hoped. Similar to the vein of Big Fish.

It’s not all bad. It’s well acted and highly watchable.

A return of sorts for Burton. It gives me a little more hope for the (needless) live action remake of Dumbo.

3/5

MORTDECAI REVIEW

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Mortified! Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Johnny Depp does his damndest to make this dreadfully unfunny farce watchable but frankly my dears, it’s just not good enough or funny enough.

If you were a little reluctant about seeing this after viewing the trailers, I’m sorry to say it is just as bad as you think.

I’ve always rated Depp and thought even if the film is a little drab, he can certainly lift it off the ground. Dark Shadows, I’m looking at you.

BUT it doesn’t help that his character is so annoying. On paper, I’m sure he was supposed to come off as Inspector Clousseau as an art dealer BUT boy, oh, boy, the end result . . .

I felt just as rotten as Gwyneth Paltrow did kissing Mortdecai’s moustache.

The plot was nothing more than a silly excuse to go across the world for some silly escapades. The con got a little baffling but it all came to a predictable and unfunny conclusion.

Depp pulling faces and waffling in his posh toff voice just wasn’t enough. Initially I couldn’t stand the bloke but by the end he had just about won me over.

I felt Depp had to overact just to get some sort of titter. For every good one liner (My file was fat and well-handled like a Welsh barmaid), there were dozens that dropped faster than a lead balloon.

Paul Bettany did his best as Mortdecai’s muscle and man servant Jock but he can’t pull off the thug role. He certainly looked the part BUT doing a cockney accent that would make even the big daddy himself Ray Winstone cringe says it all.

Sorry, Jarvis but you came off as a mug.

There was some camaraderie between him and Depp and there were a few moments in which I felt a smile crack behind my cynical demeanour.

I felt that Depp had to rely on former impressions to get a laugh. A scene in which Jock is man-handling a drunk Mortdecai felt like nothing more than Captain Jack Sparrow waffling away. It reeked of desperation.

The action sequences were incredibly lacklustre. The relentless CGI in a simple car chase sequence was very off-putting considering all the other stunt work was done by proper stunt men. Hardly memorable.

I think the only fight sequence that got my attention was when Mortdecai set Jock’s hands alight and he beat up a group of angry henchmen with fists of fire! Ridiculously OTT but impressive.

This might have fared better as a cartoon series on the telly BUT as a high rolling Hollywood crime caper? No, darling.

NOT even Ewan McGregor could get things going.

The brewing rivalry between his character Chief Inspector Martland and Mortdecai had potential BUT it was all too tame and playful to amount to anything good . . . or interesting for that matter.

The odd spot of banter but no real friction.

Martland as the lovesick puppy desperate to hump Paltrow’s leg had the odd giggle BUT again was hardly that entertaining.

The recurring joke about Mortdecai’s moustache was so-so at best.

I think the only time I laughed at this irritating gag was the bedroom scene with his beloved, Johanna (Paltrow).

Paltrow and Depp had some good chemistry and made this scene a little more bearable with some snappy dialogue. Her gag reflex every time she touches his tash was okay the first time.

BUT his sympathetic gag reflex and the constant repetition of said gag. No, no, no!

Bar one unexpected punch line, “You look like you have a vagina on your face!”

I felt that writer Eric Aronson was desperately setting up red herrings just to get Paltrow back into the film. Breaking up the unfunny film with more unfunny subplots that led nowhere.

A scene with the Duke (Michael Byrne) was terrible. If it was meant to be a cheeky pop at the Duke of Edinbrugh, it failed.

Going on about how damned attractive Paltrow was. I usually admire the alluring actress but her character Johanna was so bland and to be honest Paltrow was looking eerily thin.

The 45 minute marker in which Depp reaches America and has his first experience in a hotel actually made me laugh a couple of times.

And things seemed to perk up and gel a bit better but it really couldn’t save itself from the damage of a poor first half.

The recurring gag of Jock sleeping around was lazy but did get the odd chortle.

BUT the hit and miss gag ratio wasn’t helped by the flat supporting cast; Jeff Goldblum had the easiest role going in a highly unmemorable and unnecessary appearance. Olivia Munn may have looked stunning (Zuts Alor!) BUT her character (apart from being an attractive nymphomaniac) was pretty bland.

The legendary Paul Whitehouse made more of an impression in his 2 minute cameo as the maniacal mechanic Spinoza.

There’s the odd titter to be had but with the cast and the potential it promised, it fell dreadfully short as did my patience.

Peter Sellers had a natural flair to the role. He made Clousseau seem real. The trips, the goofs. Depp unfortunately seemed to take lessons from Steve Martin. Ridiculously out of depth, OTT and unfunny.

David Koepp may have penned some of the iconic movies of the last two decades; Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible and Spiderman BUT let’s not forget he also gave us Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and now this . . .

Sorry, Mr Depp. This is a rather horrid stain on an impeccable filmography. Better luck next time, old bean.

2/5

THE REWRITE REVIEW

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I think this needed a few more rewrites. A real shame. Hugh Grant applies his bumbling, miserable British charisma to this terribly drab yawn-com that delivered little on romance or comedy.

I know. Hugh Grant has been playing the same character for years. Why would he change? His last offerings may not have been timeless classics but they were certainly watchable. This one on the other hand is so flat and boring that if not for the cast, I honestly feel it wouldn’t have made the big screen at all.

Now Grant does deliver a sterling performance. Doing what he does best. Sleeping around and upsetting all the wrong people by doing so. However, his character is never really as sleazy or as funny as you would hope and expect.

He has enough charisma to drag this wooden cart across the finish line but boy, what a long and drawn out race. There is good chemistry between him and Marisa Tomei. The pair didn’t really grate on me as much as I thought. But it’s all so predictable and obvious.

In fact so much so that writer/director Marc Lawrence doesn’t even bother to go with an OTT corny luvvy-duvvy ending. We are just left assuming that they do with an incredibly flat and open ending.

This is Lawrence’s FOURTH collaboration with Grant (Two Weeks Notice, Music and Lyrics, Did You Hear About the Morgans?). Fans of their work may find this the weakest one yet.

The little facts about Binghamton were a nice little touch. If completely unnecessary bar the little bit of trivia about being the birthplace of the creator of the Twilight Zone, Rod Serling.

The little jibes about teaching scriptwriting brought a guilty grin to me. Merely because I have tended such classes and wondered what a lecturer could possibly teach me (At times I was right). The little things were okay but hardly that funny. Grant picking a class of beautiful ladies and ugly nerdy fellas was typical but hardly hilarious.

The supporting cast at Lawrence’s fingertips do their best to put some emotion in his leaden script but the characters are so one-dimensional, flat and unmemorable. I had to read the cast names to remember who was who.

The only lady to make a decent turn was the provocative and alluring manipulator Karen. Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows) will certainly be one to watch for the future. Emily Morden didn’t do too bad a performance as the ditsy Andrea.

But Star Wars nerds? And emos with no emo-tion who secretly have? Annie Q (The Leftovers), I’m looking at you. Didn’t mean to rhyme with that. Alison Janney (Mom) did her best to conjure up an adversary immune to Grant’s charm in the Jane Austen junkie. But it doesn’t really go anywhere after their initial cringe-inducing but entertaining introduction. J.K. Simmons (Spiderman) and Chris Elliott (Scary Movie 2) were wasted in their roles. Two gags from the pair is all we get and even they go on far too long.

It left like it was just churned out with no real thought or research relying on the cast to attract bums on seats. Lazy, clichéd but not even watchable. Just plain dull.

Grant’s character is too laidback and smarmy to really to do anything. A moment in which one of his students delivers a stellar script could have been an opportunity to test him. I really thought he might nick it to save his flailing career to ignite a little drama in this hollow affair. BUT oh no, it’s merely a passing of the torch as he reluctantly accepts he is old hat. Aww. Yuck.

A lot more could have been made out of the big time Hollywood fish stuck in a small mid-West town. I mean Lawrence had the perfect actor to play the snobby cynic. I think Mr Grant needs to take a little break and re-assess his next project instead of taking the pay cheques. The fact he has pulled out of the third Bridget Jones film says it all. For every little titter, there were a dozen duds.

Predictable, dull and unmemorable. Grant and the cast do their best but nothing was going to save this ship sinking. I think Lawrence might want to take some writing lessons. Class dismissed.

2/5 for me.

TRANSCENDENCE REVIEW

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Transcen-dunce or dense. A mind numbingly drab affair of a concept that has just enough meat to be a generic TV movie you’d expect to see on late night SyFy. You know you’re onto a loser when the opening five minutes pretty much tells you what to expect and an established cast sleepwalk their lines and fail to make an impression. The list of contenders for worst film of 2014 keeps growing.

*WARNING POTENTIAL SPOILERS* A surprising . . . ly slow and spoilerific post-apocalyptic opening made for strange viewing, followed by a flashback piecing together the aftermath. Slow but go on. This is soon hit with mind numbing techno gobbledygook that even the normally prolific powerhouse that is Johnny Depp is so bored of explaining. Basically the gist is that controversial scientist Will Caster (Depp) is the foremost researcher in artificial intelligence who is working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. ZZZZZZ! However, this has made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. A crazy sporadic two minute killing spree soon stopped me fidgeting in my seat. Unexpected (if you don’t remember the trailer) and engaging, I thought here we go. Boy, was I wrong?

Their attempt to destroy Will inadvertently becomes the catalyst he needed to succeed. Fighting for his life, Caster becomes a participant in his own “transcendence” by uploading himself and becoming a power mad information feeding virtual freak. If I had known, the journey that was in store, I would have stayed at home. There is a surprisingly stale chemistry between the beautiful Rebecca Hall and Depp. It was as if writer James Paglan thought; well they are a couple, you must feel for them. We won’t enforce the feelings or develop them. Just insert some corny, generic couple-y moments that take up too much screen time. Once Depp is uploaded, he becomes a monotone and incredibly droll menace that dithers in the background. Hall does her best to carry the film with an impeccable accent. The divided loyalty and questionable motives behind the rebooted Depp made for potentially engaging viewing but it didn’t really go anywhere. An elongated and drawn out 45 minutes building up to Depp’s upload did not do any favours for patience. His drawn out complexion and wirey helmet (easy now) was reminiscent of a demented Hellraiser. Again, nothing surmountable.

I mean the battle and debate about the ever-growing potential of AI is always an intriguing one. “Was Caster really there at all or did the AI get too clever?” was intriguing at certain points. But at a whopping two hours, there just wasn’t enough with the inevitable ending vastly approaching. Fantastic to look at. The visual effects were good. A redeeming sequence in which “Caster” has managed to develop nano bots to create an army of super soldiers delivered the little action that appeared to be on offer with some more familiar supporting faces; Clifton Collins Jr (The Event, 24) and Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds, The Dark Knight Rises). However, there is one scene which had me in stitches, whether they ran out of budget or poor editing, one of the enhanced nano bots shows off his incredible talents by jumping up two steps on a ladder. If I could find it, I would show it. Hilarious.

That’s not all that’s hilarious. The story makes no sense at all. Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman do absolutely nothing to uplift this mess. Because their characters do absolutely nothing. Even though they are aware of the dangerous effects of Caster’s ever-growing power, they just look at charts, mumble some data mumbo jumbo, rush about at the end and . . . watch from the sidelines. Freeman proved one thing. That even with his dulcet tones, he can make any bad line good. “With one of the most advanced security measures in the world, my own team got killed by poisoned cake”. Paul Bettany’s character gets imprisoned by a terrorist cell. Sits about staring blankly into nothingness while being lectured at by Kate Mara’s cyber hippie terrorist. His motives become dreadfully unclear in which it skims forward two years and he’s joined the cell. Freeman even asks him how they got to him. A shrug. That’s all we get. A shrug. Something I fear the writer or director did while making this.

A dreadful directorial debut for Wally Pfister. Now Pfister is a talented cinematographer who has worked extensively with Christopher Nolan for the last decade on some of his biggest hits to date. With Nolan as executive producer, no one would have expected this. Pfister delivers a mess, a beautifully shot mess, but a mess all the same. Perhaps stick with the cinematography? Harsh, maybe. The idea was an intriguing prospect but a lack of pace, a plot holed story line with an inevitable ending is hardly going to make this a memorable film. I mean I’m going to remember this for the two hours I lost. This also marks another step down for the prolific Depp. He is still a talented actor and the argument that he has been poor since Dark Shadows is harsh. His performance redeemed The Lone Ranger in my opinion but it was still a flop. And this film will do him no favours. Perhaps a better look at the script before accepting the wonga. That’s the only reason why I think, or hope, that the cast took this.

It just proves that a little thing called story, along with some others called character, plot and interest still count. Sleep walking performances, along with a by the numbers story line, relying on the popularity of familiar actors does not a good or profitable movie make. I fear the memory of the film will transcend, evaporating like the little nano-bots into nothingness. Avoid or upload at your own peril. 1/5

Currently ranks #168 out of 169!