*NEW* WIND RIVER REVIEW *NEW*

Tense. Breath-taking. If a little slow in places.

A veteran tracker (Jeremy Renner) helps an inexperienced FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) investigate the murder of a young Native American woman.

I love it when you go into a movie not knowing anything. All I had was the endless #WindRiver hashtags filling my Twitter feed. My curiousity peaked.

Thank God for Twitter. A riveting and well-acted thriller.

As soon as I saw, “Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan”, I knew I was in for a treat. The man responsible for Hell or High Water. One of my favourite films of 2016 (Has it really been a year, already?)

Now helming a new favourite for this year.

Jeremy Renner was brilliant. I’ve always felt he was an underrated actor.

The role of Cory Lambert was perfectly suited for him. A man desperate to keep himself to himself BUT also wanting to do the right thing.

The pace was set on the slow burner with Sheridan teasing titbits of Lambert’s past. The questions already mounting; Why the outback? Why is he so good with that rifle? Why does he have such a strained relationship with his ex-wife?

The awkward atmosphere and idle chit chat as the pair force conversation while Lambert waits for his son.

A man plagued by his own demons. Punishing himself with a life in the wilderness. That was until he discovered a body in the snow . . .

Olsen was excellent as the inexperienced agent Banner. Her arrival summed up the character perfectly as she stood in the snow ill-equipped with a trouser suit.

The only available agent in the area. Sent all the way from Nevada. BUT despite her naivety, Banner’s determination to crack the case and deliver justice for the victim sparked something in Lambert.

The Avengers duo were fantastic together. They had great chemistry and made the dynamic really work.

“We have six people covering an area the size of Rhode Island”.

Sheridan was even able to throw in some social commentary at the hypocrisy of the law enforcement.

Banner’s heated debate with a coroner spoke volumes. Refusing to class the crime as a homicide. The outcome determining how much support the FBI would provide. Mental.

Ben Richardson’s cinematography was brilliant. With one frame, he made the snowy outback look beautiful and inviting. BUT with the next; deadly and haunting.

You couldn’t hide that Neo-Western feel. The Wind River reservation nothing more than a place of a desolation full of lost souls and dangerous ones.

The isolation and loneliness being the real killer.

A simple enquiry turned into a mad shoot out with a group of small-time meth-heads. Nail-biting.

I liked how Sheridan tied in the Native American community as the Crowheart clan struggled to come to terms with the loss of their daughter.

Heartbreaking. Banner’s attempt to console the mother delivered an unsettling scene as she walked in on the poor woman cutting herself. That bleak feeling of helplessness.

BUT as much as I was enjoying the film, the case itself felt a little generic and tame. I kept wondering what all the hype was about.

That was until the final act. The last 20 minutes. Just . . . Woah. No spoilers.

Heart in mouth stuff. My grumbling was soon put on hold as everything came to a tense and exhilarating climax.

There was even a stellar cameo from Jon Bernthal that came out of the blue. Another underrated actor bossing another supporting role.

As much as I picked at the pacing, (ironically) this film could have been longer.

If anything, Wind River could have done with fleshing things out a little more. Especially with Olsen and Renner’s partnership. I loved how Banner’s presence brought out Lambert’s anguish. Finally cracking his hard shell and allowing him to share his pain. Not enough!

The sombre finale hit home and delivered some shocking statistics on the number of missing Native American women in the States.

Fans of Hell or High Water or gritty bleak thrillers will enjoy this all the same. It wasn’t perfect BUT a rewarding effort all the same.

One I actually liked (I know, I bet you’re thinking. Jeez, he picked at this and he liked it?)

3.5/5

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AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON REVIEW

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Did the second instalment do what the first couldn’t?

Was I left fuming yet again? Or did I have to swallow my words?

They’re back. Bigger, badder but better? There’s only one way to find out.

When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron (James Spader), things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans

I will admit straight off the bat. I really didn’t like the first Avengers. I know? SACRILEGE! It just didn’t do it for me. Overlong, mind numbing and overhyped. If not for Tom Hiddleston’s superb turn as Loki and a thrilling 30 minute closing crescendo, I would have given up on the franchise.

I was furious at how rushed the endless superhero entries were. Just to get to the Avengers release date. Okay, the Thor films were fantastic. Hawkeye and The Black Widow didn’t even get an origin story. Iron Man 1 and 3 were good. Don’t get me started on 2.

The numerous Hulk origin attempts with Bana and Norton misfired (I actually liked the Ang Lee blockbuster. What?). Captain America was rushed. I was happy to see more of the superhero fighting in the past. BUT the Winter Soldier sequel did restore my faith a little.

Inevitably after the crazy money that the first Avengers film took, we had another. And after much deliberation and note taking, I can firmly say . . .

Well done, Mr. Whedon. You have won me over.

The opening was racy, fast paced and straight to business. The team finally gelled together and in the zone. The special effects were fast and furious. The overuse of CGI did make things a little too cartoony in parts. But how else are they going to create a nine foot Hulk?!

There were numerous SHIELD references that went over my head in the opening. I knew it had something to do with Marvel Agents of SHIELD but I’m not that big a fan. It might help to recap on Thor or the first Avengers as a certain sceptre is used quite heavily again.

Whedon’s witty one liners zinging left, right and centre like the endless cannon fodder. The banter between the team was top notch. The old fashioned Cap (Chris Evans) telling Stark off for using foul language being an ongoing joke was a particular highlight.

The team dynamic really worked for me and made for great viewing. I mean even the scene in which the gang were trying to lift Thor’s hammer as a drunken party trick shouldn’t have worked but was so funny.

Ultron was a perfect maniacal menace. Spader (Ol’ Red from The Blacklist) applying his gravelly gravitas with aplomb. The animation and detail was excellent.

I liked the brewing romance between Banner/Hulk and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). The lullaby that they use to calm the Hulk was a nice touch even if it reminded me of Shrek and Fiona. But I honestly thought there was always something between The Widow and The Cap? Oh, that cheeky minx. Anyway . . .

Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson made a more convincing couple as the Maximoff twins than they ever did in Godzilla. My only quibble with Taylor-Johnson was that his character Quicksilver was very much like a character in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Evan Peters played him. He ran really fast. What was he called? Oh yeah. Quicksilver. Hmmm . . . Interesting that. Copyright issues were there?

Olsen was always my Kryptonite even if she has been in some terrible movies. But she did the role of the Scarlet Witch justice as did Kickass.

I wasn’t really bored. It just got on with it and zipped along. Dipping only in a few parts to allow some much needed character development on some neglected heroes. *Cough* Hawkeye *Cough* Black Widow.

Renner had taken to the role well. But he was so one-dimensional. I mean, come on Whedon. Surely you’ve seen Arrow? But without spoiling anything, Whedon finally ventured into his background and gave him more depth. He was able to stand out among the ever-expanding roster of superheroes.

The trippy dream sequences that the Witch uses to play on her opponents’ minds was interesting as we got a little peak into The Black Widow’s past; most notably her training.

It was funny, intense, action packed. Great acting (Check), top banter (Check), cheeky Stan Lee cameo (BIG CHECK!). There were a few surprises to be had. BUT I couldn’t help but feel that there were too many characters from the Marvel-verse being introduced. Paul Bettany’s The Vision was an addition that felt like a mish-mesh of everybody else and didn’t really make as much of an impression as I expected.

And considering the huge ensemble, there were a few faces not to make an appearance. Merely mentioned in a passing comment. I’m looking at you, ladies. Ms Portman and Paltrow.

Inevitably it is all left wide open for more. SPOILERS! Behave. BUT this time round, I cannot wait for the next installment. I’m actually a little excited.

Well done.

3.5/5 With grounds to change to a 4

NOTE: Obviously stay behind and endure the relentless credits for a cheeky ten second teaser.

OLDBOY REVIEW

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Oh Boy!

Now firstly, I am a huge fan of Park Chan-wook’s 2004 original cult classic, and was devastated to hear a remake was in the pipeline. However, I felt somewhat assured knowing that Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing and Inside Man) was at the helm, with Josh Brolin and Samuel L (The L stands for Motherfucker) Jackson in the cast.

But what I just watched was a travesty, everything I feared in a Hollywood remake by the bucket load. The opening half hour did pay homage and pretty much covered the same set up as the original, which did not bother me in the slightest, with Brolin with his Southern drawl playing the part to perfection and establishing early on that the character is asking for trouble. For those unaware of the original plot, I will try not to spoil too much but I’m so riled up after watching this, I cannot promise anything.

Basically, the main gist is that Joe Doucett (Brolin) is kidnapped and held prisoner in a hotel room for 20 years, until one day he is released thus putting him on a murderous vengeance-seeking path with a hammer in tow. (That’s right. A hammer). Original fans – I’ll get to that. What I liked was the little touches. The fact that Lee included the mystery umbrella woman. However, he focuses, if a little too much, more on Doucett’s entrapment. Although it allowed the scenes to provide more depth and encapsulate (Word of the day!) his vulnerability and ever-growing psychosis, it could have been condensed a lot quicker.

(Plus was I the only one thinking, Jesus Brolin, put on some pants son?). The Cast Away-inspired pillow companion was a nice touch.

Oldboy was always a strange and violent film but what I loved about Chan-wook’s original was that it was suspenseful, intriguing and hypnotic, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen (and no! Not because it was in subtitles!). But once Doucett is freed from his motel confines, Lee seems to throw away everything that made the original a classic for me, leaving a big, bloody mess. This is settled in one ridiculously unnecessary violent scene, in which Brolin pretty much kills a high school football team for getting in his way. And with that very moment, went all logic and interest.

The cast do their utmost to provide a dimension to their wafer thin characters. A notable exception being the beautiful Elizabeth Olsen (I didn’t realise the Olsen twins had another sister, my goodness, steady now). You know you’re onto a losing streak when even Samuel L Jackson can’t save the day (he was the Spirit bad. Bad). Jackson just come across as a whiny, cross dressing weirdo with a stupid blonde Mohican, not even his motherfuckery was funny. Just plain irritating.

The lines fall flat, Brolin the powerhouse actor that he is, can only grumble and pull stupid faces. The dumpling scene, my God! At one point, in an attempt to find his captors, he knows that the food he was given was from a Chinese restaurant. So what does he do? Go to every restaurant and literally fill his face with dumplings until he recognizes the taste.

The whole thing borders on self-parody. At one point, Josh Brolin is riding a tiny Chinese bicycle while chasing after a Jeep frantically waving a hammer and Sharlto Copley (District 9) as the villain. Oh my word! What was the deal with his accent? Now, the villain was always an eccentric and a flamboyant dresser. But Copley’s portrayal comes off as a really naff Bond villain from the 70s Moore era. It was laughable. There was genuine suspense when the two protagonists finally meet but with Brolin and Copley, it was comical.

The hammer scene, the infamous hammer scene. Terrible. Lee films it all in one take, like the original, but instead of leaving the camera static and the action unfolding around it, the camera pans around, following Brolin. He only uses the hammer for thirty seconds, then swaps to every possible weapon. The violence is OTT, ridiculous and stupid. He’s running around with a knife in his back while being slapped about with 2×4’s! One big Saturday Night Live piss take.

No squid eating, just a passing reference. And the umbrella woman, just disappears. My friend who has not seen the original did not get the point to her at all and frankly there wasn’t one in this rehash. Oh and the twist. Well, there is a twist for those unfamiliar but for those familiar, it’s different, they stay true but go a little bit more messed up.

It is difficult not to draw comparisons, especially to a film that was, and still is good. It did not need to be remade.

On it’s own merit, it’s a stupidly gory and OTT watchable mess that is so-so at best, and I mean best. Worth a gander if you’re a gore nut but the tone is all over the place, just like everything else with this movie. A real mess, a beautifully shot mess but oh boy 1.5/5

Currently ranked 176 out of 178!

GODZILLA REVIEW

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Godzilla? God help us. I really wanted this to work but yet again another reboot fails to hit the mark by it’s hero’s gargantuan tail. A drawn out, plot holed mess that if not for a promising 15 minute finale would have been a complete fossil. This poor piece of dino doodoo goes out with a yawn than a ROAR!

When I heard that Gareth Edwards, the man who gave us the low budgeted apocalyptic cult creature feature Monsters, had been green lit to direct the Godzilla reboot, I was excited. Monsters gave us a taster of his visual brilliance. Granted the story was nothing new but give him the right material and a bigger budget and Godzilla could be something. It is such a shame that I report that even with an impressive cast, this film will sink and should stay in the underwater prison that kept Godzilla away for most of the movie (You read that right).

Bryan Cranston does his best to make the technical mumbo jumbo sound interesting and plausible. Hell, the guy even speaks Japanese. But you can’t help but feel it’s just Hal from Malcolm in the Middle as an engineer. Especially when he is running, panting, and screaming quite high pitched. It’s all unintentionally hilarious. I mean it was always going to be hard for Cranston to find a suitable follow up project after the excellent Breaking Bad.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I actually preferred it’s ridiculously corny and OTT 1998 blockbuster brother, Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla. It deliberately poked fun at the hokey concept while this takes itself far too seriously (which wasn’t a problem to begin with. I mean if Christopher Nolan can do it, why not?). It just highlights the number of plot holes in the loose story line to give the humans something to do. Look I don’t care about the concept of a giant dinosaur causing havoc on the world’s major landmarks. But the problem when you have giant dinosaurs or robots (I’m looking at you, Transformers) that can survive nuclear bombs (pretty much the biggest weapon we can launch at the buggers), the only thing the human race can do as Ken Wantanabe rightly says, “Let them fight.”

Edwards obviously intended to wet our whistles, stalling the inevitable appearance of the gargantuan giant. I’m fine with that but not when we are left with naff, generic character regurgitating scientific mumbo jumbo that bores the living stuffing out of you. I mean a beautifully shot scientific expedition with Ken Wantanabe (The Last Samurai/Batman Begins) and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) that skims across The Philippines and Japan teases us with a dino skeleton here, a trail of destruction there but as you’re waiting for the hero, you realise there is no point in the scientist’s journey as it makes no sense and is completely necessary. That big budget being put to use. Alexandre Desplat’s score is suspenseful and pacey but there isn’t much suspense or tension to keep you hooked.

I mean the opening sequence with the redacted 1950s footage was a complete rip off of the Emmerich rehash. I won’t spoil too much. That being said, there wasn’t much to spoil. This was advertised all wrong. The main creatures that we are stuck following are mutated parasites, well giant cockroach things that feed off radiation and it’s up to good ol’ Zilla to sort them out. At a two hour running time, there just isn’t enough going on. Every time we see those cockroach things, we get two minutes of carnage then they fly off to another expensive location for more blockbuster budget spending. When Godzilla finally appears, the animation and visual effects are impeccable, from his expressions to his incredibly loud roar. Seriously I nearly went deaf in the cinema.

But every time he looks like he’s going to do something. The camera cuts away or flashes to the aftermath. Screw that, I want to see it! Instead we get a rather hench looking army chughead Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) sleepwalking through his lines as he suffers daddy issues with his paranoid skeptic of a father, Mr Bryan Cranston. Cranston’s angry scientist was the only thing worth watching in between the creatures popping up as if to say, “We will be fighting . . . eventually”. An unexpected twist got my attention, only to leave it open for more . . . monotonous drivel that went nowhere. Wantanabe looking white as a sheet petrified of Godzilla just becomes a parody in itself. The talented David Straitharn (The Bourne Ultimatum/Alphas) plays a stocky grunting general that asks the main question every film goer is thinking, “Where’s Godzilla?”. A character that has spawned numerous movies and hit movie history is left making a short 15 minute appearance for the “big finale”.

The little details soon irritate. When you first see the tip of his spine arise out of the ocean like something out of Jaws, a smile cracks but after half an hour, you end up screaming (quite ironically), “Get out of the water!”. When Big G gets to fight, the special effects are brilliant. But I can’t help feel that it’s a little too dark (in the visual sense, literally) to see what’s going on.

The fighting does appeared laboured and mechanical but that’s where the fun came from the classics. The special effects do nothing to spoil that. In fact they improve it. I wouldn’t waste your money on 3D, apart from the opening, where smoke and ash rains out the screen, everything else is just a little more prominent but not a massive investment.

The HALO jumping sequence was decent, especially when it flicked to the first person angle, in which we see the soldiers dive out of the plane into the ensuing fog and debris left by Godzilla and co. However, when you think back, they didn’t need to do it. Seriously.

Unfortunately, before people realise the mess that this film is, it will have already made its money and a sequel has already been green lit. But this offering has not heightened my excitement to fish out the next one. Edwards excels at the effects yet again but the love of God, give us some characters we care about.

It doesn’t offer anything for the leading ladies at all. I mean Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) had such a pointless part, anyone could have played her. The same can be said for the beautiful Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy remake), who was left either staring blankly, screaming or waiting on the phone. A shame. This had all the potential to start the blockbuster season with a BANG but only went with a BOO! Let’s hope X Men or Transformers can reward our patience. 2/5 for me.

As a side note, how cool would it have been if Heisenberg squares up to Godzilla and screams, “SAY MY NAME!”. To which Godzilla roars in subtitles, “HEISENBERG”. Then skulks away. “THIS IS MY TERRITORY!”. Maybe it will be in The Director’s Cut?!

Currently ranks #117 out of 174!