*NEW* EVEREST REVIEW *NEW*

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This movie made me feel like I was climbing Everest. Exhausting, tough and an instant regret.

If NOT for its impressive ensemble, I don’t think this would have made the big screen.

A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.

The opening certainly showed promise. It may have been slow burning but it was watchable as the gang ascended upon the monstrous mountain. I couldn’t believe the stars that popped up in this. The only problem is that you soon forgot them by the next frame.

Jason Clarke managed to make a memorable impression as the ultra sincere mountaineer Rob Hall. He had good chemistry with Keira Knightley. Shame that Knightley took the back seat in this arduous affair. She did her best with the minute role of the pregnant spouse and delivered a convincing accent.

Salvatore Totino’s cinematography was fantastic to look at as the crew passed through each base. Ascending further and further. The trivia and facts about the side effects upon reaching certain altitudes made for crazy but interesting stuff. BUT it also made me question why people do it in the first place.

However after 60 minutes of more statistics, more cliched banter and weak back stories (Doug’s postman on Everest story line being a particular highlight), my eyes began to wonder.

The main problem for me was that despite the cast’s best efforts, they were having to deal with such unmemorable characters. I understand that it’s hard to stray from the source material and I can respect Kormakur’s attempt to implore more realism BUT for a two hour feature you need more depth and interest.

The only other character I could remember after Rob was Beck. The Texan businessman played to perfection by Josh Brolin. BUT that was also down to the miraculous events that unfolded with him.

When the storm finally hit, a gigantic black cloud spewing hail and arctic winds, I was hooked. It was tense and nail biting. I wouldn’t know what to do in that situation. Nature being the true killer. BUT I am glad I didn’t invest in 3D. It wouldn’t have added anything to the experience.

After that cloud sequence, it became incredibly difficult to see anything. It was grainy and dark which certainly heightened the tension in some scenes. Especially as Beck battled to see through the blistering arctic conditions with his failing eyes BUT generally it was disorienting.

However, in between the volatile storm episodes, there wasn’t much else. You also started to pick out the errors. I was a little unsure about Kormakur’s intentions. What was he actually trying to say? This wasn’t a proper survival story. A lot of lives were lost.

The commentary on the competitive nature of guide tours impacting on deadlines was expertly personified in Jake Gyllenhaal’s hippie climbing instructor. It was a shame that the character was nothingy and soon got on my nerves.

BUT it didn’t excuse the fact that Hall ignored protocols that he had enforced. He delayed the climb down when he was told by his team about the storm. If anything, Everest showed how incompetent these guide tours really are and that the only people who climb it are idiots with death wishes and too much money.

There were some touching scenes BUT they were soon bogged down by monotonous talking that was tragically repetitive and hammy scenes that just came off unintentionally comical. I had to laugh at the fact that each character had to remove their masks just so the audience knew who they were. Even when they shouted each other’s name repetitively, I still struggled to remember which actor was playing who.

The helicopter sequence was tense and offered a little more in the vein of Vertical Limit. Suspense, tension, shame there wasn’t more of it. Martin Henderson, Sam Worthington and Emily Watson were wasted in their stocky roles. Disappointing.

The end credits were so downbeat and nihilistic that I actually wondered why they even bothered to make this movie in the first place.

A shambolic affair. For those familiar with the story and those who aren’t, stick with the book. I wasn’t expecting a big dumb blockbuster. I was prepared for a challenging drama of survival. Challenging was certainly right. Tragically, it offered little for me.

2/5

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*OSCAR WINNER* THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING REVIEW

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It really did have a bit of everything. Phenomenal acting, heartfelt drama and an inspiring true story.

Can I pick fault at the Oscar winning of one of the most intelligent and courageous physicists in the world?

There’s only one way to find out.

No, I can’t. Brilliant.

It’s hard to rant about a film when it was executed so perfectly. Finally a good film!

Eddie Redmayne was outstanding. It didn’t feel like I was watching an actor doing an impression. I felt like I was watching Hawking.

He delivered sincerity and charm to the role with aplomb. A charismatic performance that deservedly earned that shiny Oscar.

The opening zips along and is relatively easy going with Stephen and Jane (Felicity Jones) first meeting and inevitably falling in love.

It’s a little schmaltzy if I’m being really picky but the pair have fantastic chemistry to make it more than bearable.

It is heartbreaking as we see a chipper lovestruck Hawking focusing on his studies. Completely unaware of what lurks around the corner.

Director James Marsh and writer Anthony McCarten handle the story delicately.

We see Stephen begin to stumble, clumsily drop things and struggle to write little bits of equations. That is until one little accident . . .

All it took was one trip on the pavement. It happened quite unexpectedly. A few people actually jumped in the screen.

This soon becomes something so much more. As does this story.

Hawking soon has to deal with being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (ALS). An initial diagnosis that only gave him a life span of two years.

I couldn’t even imagine what it must have felt like and still feel for the man.

I won’t delve too much into the story because I want you guys to see this one.

What was interesting about The Theory of Everything is that it’s not just Stephen’s story. It’s also Jane’s story.

Both not fully prepared with what this diagnosis would do. The challenge it would become. The toll it would take.

Felicity Jones (Cemetery Junction/Chalet Girl) gave a fantastic performance as Jane and certainly earned that nomination. I expect to see more of her in the foreseeable future.

Doing everything she can for the man she loves and marrying him so they can enjoy whatever time they have left.

Heartbreaking, beautiful and inspiring.

If you are expecting more of the science stuff. Science stuff? Only the creation of the entire universe.

The film doesn’t really bog down too much on that aspect. It focuses very much on the people behind the science.

You could argue that a biopic always wins BIG. And just because it is a biopic, people will say it’s good and deserves an Oscar.

Not so! There’s a whole schedule of them on True Movies that will prove that theory wrong.

All it takes is a bad script, bad actor or bad execution and the biopic (No matter how inspiring or interesting it is) is ruined.

Luckily, there is never a doubt.

Hawking continues to miraculously defy his diagnosis BUT the condition take its toll NOT just on the man.

As well as seeing Hawking’s daily struggle, we also see Jane’s. By looking at how both Stephen and Jane are affected, we have a more rounded story.

Both aren’t painted perfectly in this tale.

It is tough to watch at times and you can feel for the pair. Jane made a sacrifice not completely aware of its full extent.

Redmayne really captures the expressions and movements intricately.

There is quite a bit of humour. Most notably being when Stephen is finally given a voice after losing his own. And the voice, we all know, being American. “Is that a problem?”, mutters the naive technician. A little grin flickers across the professor’s face.

Come on. Be honest. How many people thought he was American? No, just me. Oops.

I didn’t realise what Hawking had to endure. The constant battle with his body as it continues to shut down.

Things take an even more dramatic turn when Jane starts having feelings for another man.

The introduction of Jonathan (Charlie Cox) was an interesting development and was handled delicately.

It hits home a little harder when Stephen asks Jonathan to keep helping around the house because his wife needs him.

Charlie Cox (Boardwalk Empire) was very good. He had great chemistry with Jones and worked well with Redmayne.

The dynamic certainly sparked questions on Jane’s behaviour but at the same time you could relate and understand.

Even Professor Hawking seemed to be getting very close to his speech therapist (Maxine Peake).

The toll really starting to take a hold.

The cast cannot be faltered. Even the supporting cast was superb consisting of the likes of David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen from Game of Thrones!) and Simon McBurney (The Vicar of Dibley).

It really is an inspiring story of one mans struggle to defy the odds. But no one can do it alone. Jane’s support and dedication is something to be commemorated.

The final moments were touching. An uplifting, easygoing and wonderful acted biopic. A little cheesy BUT it really did have a bit of everything.

One of the best films, if NOT the best film, of the year. SO FAR.

4/5

*THROWBACK REVIEW* BELLE

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Pride and Racial Prejudice or Frownton Abbey. A stellar British cast uplifts a syrupy biopic that you’d expect to see on ITV. 12 Years A Slave, this ain’t. It’s certainly watchable and zips along but it doesn’t really make full use of the cast or the subject matter and inevitably leads to the same old predictable schmaltzy finale.

So what’s it all about? Inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). The illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy captain is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and wife (Emily Watson).

Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the colour of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. However, she soon falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son (Sam Reid – The Riot Club) bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

Well, at least gets the ball rolling . . . sort of, kinda.

The beautiful Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Touch) takes the fold and delivers a strong performance. One to watch for the future. Matthew Goode (Stoker/The Good Wife) applies enough charisma to make a memorable impression as Captain Sir John Lindsay, who plucks an orphaned Belle from poverty and much worse. A shame that he is only in the film for five minutes before departing on a long voyage.

To be honest, anyone could have played him. Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey) seems to be typecast of late as the uptight old prune of an aunt but if she delivers the goods, does it matter? To me, just a bit.

Even Tom Felton is playing a Victorian Draco Malfoy, complete with “mudblood” attitude in tow. Don’t get me wrong, he plays the slick toothed snob to perfection. As does James Norton (or Tommy from the highly acclaimed BBC TV series Happy Valley) as Felton’s smug brother and partner in crime.

They are both the weasel-y twins (What?) as they try and weave their way into Belle’s fortune. Miranda Richardson (Blackadder) is also brilliant as their conniving matriarch. Emily Watson plays her part well, even if her character is completely unnecessary.

Merely, a commentator sitting on the side lines. Commentary that is self-explanatory as, to be honest, there is not a lot going on. The beautiful Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold) is making an impression. She plays the dibby cousin Elizabeth well. You do feel for her character as she appears to be used as pawn in a game of rich chess or left lingering in the shadow of the “exotic beauty”.

I appreciate the concept and direction the film took. This is a completely different story to 12 Years A Slave that deals with the issue of race within the aristocracy. The fact that Belle was awarded the stature and position of any rich member of power and is unable to use it, says it all.

However, it all feels a little petty in comparison to the visceral gritty torture that Solomon endured. He was beaten, whipped and hung. Belle was made to eat in a separate room to the rest of the family and was perceived merely as an exhibition piece, an exotic jewel, nothing more.

Tom Wilkinson is fantastic as Lord Mansfield whose position is compromised in between fulfilling the law. The law that does not treat any person of colour with respect or even see them as people.

He works well with Mbatha-Raw which allows for some heartfelt moments. After the initial introduction and set up in an easy going half hour, the film seems to be happy to tend with the mundane gossip of petty rich Victorian folk while the inevitable romance blossoms between Belle and John Davinier (Reid). The awkward exchanges, the subtle glances and turning aways. Check, check. All there.

It all feels like by the end it is merely ticking the boxes for all the clichés of a period drama. Any chance of making statements are crushed by an inevitable corny love story. The finale is merely a revelatory court case with the verdict relying on Mansfield’s overriding decision.

A decision that is so obvious and unbelievably predictable that all the grandiose speeches mean nothing. I expected so much more.

It’s well-acted, easy going but doesn’t seem to be sure on whether to be a hard-hitting drama or a slow burning love story.

If you’re a period drama fan, then you’ll love this but it brings nothing new to the genre. Weaker episodes of Downton Abbey have done a better job (There’s never been a weak episode of Downton? That’s scandalous!)

If you’re already going in making comparisons and expecting 12 Years A Slave, then . . . watch 12 Years A Slave. Such a shame. Not bad but not great.

2.5/5

TOP 20 FILMS OF 2014 SO FAR

So here we are. What films have surprised, intrigued and entertained you this year . . . so far? Now I’ve waffled on about having pretty much a season ticket pass to the cinema. So far I’ve seen 85 films this year which . . . isn’t a lot in comparison to my last year’s total of 144 (Yep, crazy) and that is because I have found it harder to enjoy films lately. I have had to endure through endless entries of mindless drivel regurgitating the same old plot, clichéd characters (even in their 3D wrapped foils) and excruciating acting or dreadful dialogue.

To be honest, it killed my enthusiasm a little bit. I see a trailer and have doubts. I have to talk myself into going, simply hoping that it will at least be watchable (which most of them are) but enjoyable? Well . . .

Now some entries you may question and unfortunately release dates are always different. My argument is films I’ve seen this year. Some may have been released at the end of 2013 but I didn’t see them until early January and it says it all if they are in here because I have found it difficult to fill my top 20. I had to pick films that surprised for not being a complete blunder or just for keeping my attention. BUT here we go.

The top 20 films of 2014 . . . so far

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1. The Dallas Buyers Club

A film that certainly surprised me. I went in not knowing what to expect and was rewarded with a different story, engaging characters that were done to justice by two actors that had seemed to be pushed into the movie wilderness. McConaughey was launched back into the limelight and rightly so, beating Ejiofor to the Oscar. I still couldn’t believe Jared Leto’s supporting role. More to him than just a singer from an emo-rock-pop band.

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2. 12 Years A Slave

A visceral and haunting film that delves into the human condition of one man’s plight into slavery. Steve McQueen certainly delivered one of his most ambitious, if slightly overhyped, projects to date. A harrowing story expertly acted by a fantastic cast. Ejiofor was unlucky not to win but he has certainly proved he can handle the leading role. This was all helped by an Oscar-winning supporting turn from newcomer Lupita Nyong’o and a sinister one from Michael Fassbender.

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3. August: Osage County

An underrated drama. A perfect showcase in acting. Meryl Streep proving yet again why she keeps getting those Oscar nods. A simple story revolving a family feud. But with a family of well written characters with a huge ensemble of talented characters made this one to watch for me. Its abrupt ending may have lost marks but it didn’t ruin great performances. Shame none of the contenders won this time round.

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4. The Book Thief

Now I will admit that I haven’t read the book but if the film is anything to go by, then I really want to read it. An endearing, if slow burning war drama that is shown through the eyes of a little girl who finds solace in stealing books. A great performance by Sophie Nelisse. It’s always a gamble with kid actors, especially when they are the main characters. But a great performance that is aided by a fantastic supporting cast consisting of Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson made this an engaging and highly watchable affair with an inevitable but emotional ending.

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5. 22 Jump Street

My name is Jeff! Yes, conforming to the masses but if when a blockbuster is this funny, who cares? Hill and Tatum are back pretty much doing the same thing which worked the first time round to better and bigger results. I laughed from start to finish. The very purpose of a comedy for me. It’s big, dumb and stupid but so funny. Invest.

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6. The Guardians of The Galaxy

Another Marvel movie is unleashed. But what a film. James Gunn manages to make an enjoyable romp of a space opera with the same old predictable guff of intergalactic rogues turned superheroes spiel. However, I actually cared about these rogues and cannot wait for another inevitable sequel. This is all helped with a great script, fantastic cast and an awesome soundtrack. So good I saw it twice.

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7. The Inbetweeners 2

The boys are back but this time they’re going down under. If you’re a fan then expect the same old dirty smut that still manages to have you heaving and laughing all the way. They may be reaching their thirties but the cast were still very much on form, making this instalment surpass the movie, not quite the series. Get on it, my movie fwends. Fwend, aww.

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8. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Now I am actually reading the book. This film lost marks for stretching out its source material to the max. However, Jackson still manages to deliver the goods by harvesting a special effects extravaganza of a movie. This slicker, darker follow up to An Unexpected Journey has left me awaiting for the final installment of the prequel trilogy. But does it really have to be three hours again?

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9. X-Men: Days of Future Past

X Men Give to Ya. A return to form from a franchise that had lost its way BIG TIME. Mixing the old with the new cast along with a time travelling plot device made for some twists and turns and a little spring cleaning as Singer made his return to the helm. With that we got an action packed restoration to former glories, near enough.

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10. The Raid 2

Despite lacking the pace and tenacity of the original and leaving us chomping our nails, waiting impatiently through the monotonous set up after a gruelling opening sequence, The Raid 2 finally delivered the goods with an all-out explosive lets-crank-this-to 11 adrenaline pumped finale with some crazy cult characters and memorable fight sequences.

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11. Captain America: Winter Soldier

A solid sequel that improved tremendously on its rushed predecessor and allowed to flesh out the ol’ Cap and some of the supporting characters that we only really had little cameos. Nick Fury, I’m looking at you. The introduction of new characters helped provide a more interesting environment. The whole adjustment to the modern era was a nice touch and gave Cap a little more dimension. If more films are to follow for the Cap, I await with anticipation.

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12. How To Train Your Dragon 2

It may not have topped the original but it still entertained the masses with terrific animation, an easy going plot and great characters. Definitely one of the better family movies out this year. I cannot wait for the next one.

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13. The Railway Man

A endearing, well acted war biopic that received such a panning, I feared the worst. However, although a little slow burning, I thought Colin Firth was incredible and was snubbed an Oscar nomination for his performance. Nicole Kidman may have been wasted in this role but the final confrontation between Firth and Hiroyuki Sanada was emotional and gripping. Worth a watch.

 

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14. Last Vegas

It know what is was from the get go. A group of old talented screen icons lapping it up in Las Vegas. It’s corny, OTT but left me smiling coming out of the cinema. Let’s be honest not all old boy movies hit it off. Wild Hogs and Space Cowboys (cough cough). The fact a sequel has been green lit, says it all.

 

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15. Begin Again

An unexpected treat. A feel good summer movie if ever there was one. Not without its imperfections. The flashing back and forth stuttered the opening and it may have ended a little abrupt and too open for my liking. BUT the songs were catchy. The cast were fantastic and Keira Knightley can sing. Oh my goodness.

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16. The LEGO Movie

How could I not? Everything is AWESOME! It’s funny, bonkers and blew the box office away. A talented voice cast boost a bunch of crazy but memorable characters with jokes and puns to entertain both kids and adults.

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17. Frozen

What? Losing movie cred. Entertaining, funny supporting characters, catchy songs. Disney returning to form and going old school with this icy escapade of a musical.

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18. The Wolf of Wall Street

Now despite complaining about the length and the hype, it was still a visceral tour-de-force of a drug induced thriller. Leo was unstoppable but did anyone else feel he tried too hard? Slight bias for me as I’m a Scorsese nut but it was still intense, funny and satirical to the max.

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19. Cuban Fury

I was torn between this and Edge of Tomorrow but despite seeing Tom Cruise killed 200 times, it was hardly original. Now, I know Cuban Fury isn’t original either but its easy going, funny and it was great to see Nick Frost come to the fore. The dance off sequence with an unexpected cameo was worth seeing alone.

 

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20. Delivery Man

Yep, you read that right. I’m going for the outsider. I read so many negative reviews that I dreaded watching this. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Now when it first started with Vaughan shouting and yelling in Spanish, I feared the worse. However, this soon turned in a dramedy and Vaughan was able to show that he can still act and be funny at the same time with an easy going story. And plus a scene stealing supporting turn from Chris Pratt as Vaughan’s useless lawyer pal made it all the better.

 

Feel free to share your top 20, debate my selections, all skip the post altogether.

COMING UP MY 20 WORST FILMS OF 2014. This will take me a whole lot longer to decide because there are so many choices!

THE BOOK THIEF REVIEW

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An endearing and heartfelt drama. Brilliantly written, nicely shot and well acted.

Against the backdrop of the impending Second World War, a young orphan Liesel Nieminger (Sophie Nelisse) finds solace in stealing books as well as hiding a Jewish refugee, Max (Ben Schnetzer) who is being sheltered by her adoptive parents.

I’ve never read Markus Zusak’s best selling novel BUT certainly want to now after watching this. A brilliant narration from Roger Allam (V for Vendetta) accompanied a sobering and dark opening sequence as Liesel met her foster parents for the first time; the instantly loveable and easygoing Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and stern and frumpy Rosa (Emily Watson). It allowed for an easygoing first act as she adjusted to her new home and made friends with the eager Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch). BUT also enemies with the delightfully unpleasant bully Franz Deutscher (Levin Liam).

The film subtly built up to the impending war. It was an interesting transition as it soon took a toll on the community. At 131 minutes, there were parts where the film did dip BUT it was still riveting and beautiful to watch. Once Max (a fantastic debut from Schnetzer – Pride) entered the mix, the film branched out and made for an endearing, suspenseful and engaging war drama.

Nelisee is a good little actress and carries the film well. She is definitely going to be one to watch for the future. It’s always important that these dramas have characters you can root for and care about. The supporting cast were perfect. Rush and Watson were fantastic as her sparring foster parents. Liersch and Nelisse had great chemistry as the childhood companions desperate to keep hold of their friendship as the war takes those around them.

It’s always tough to make a war drama after so many fantastic examples. It’s important to remember that this is an experience of the Nazi regime under Hitler through the eyes of a little German girl. If you’re expecting a gritty, explosive war flick you will be left disappointed. However, the film builds up to an unexpected, harrowing and tear jerking finale as the war breaks apart the idyllic Heaven Street. All aided with the a beautifully Oscar nominated score from none other than the great John Williams (Jaws/Harry Potter/Star Wars)

My main qualm with the film was that it breezes over crucial turning points in Hitler’s regime. We all know some aspect of the man’s madness. BUT we’re also NOT history buffs. We’re all aware of the horrendous treatment of the Jews BUT may not necessarily know the Night of the Long Knives. The overlong pace may test some. The first hour may have been a little schmaltzy BUT it still delivered a harrowing finale. The only problem was that it felt a little abrupt and left too many questions about certain protagonists. There could have been a little more time spent on explaining and been better for it without spoiling anything.

However, I still went in, NOT sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. Definitely one of the better films.

3.5/5