*NEW* CRIMSON PEAK REVIEW *NEW*

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A return to form (of sorts) from the master of horror.

In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author (Mia Wasikowska) is torn between love for her childhood friend (Charlie Hunnam) and the temptation of a mysterious outsider (Tom Hiddleston). Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds and remembers.

As soon as the blood soaked Universal logo flooded the screen, escorted with the creepy children’s choir singing, I was transfixed. A wonderfully Gothic opening ticked all the boxes for me. Suspenseful, menacing and eerily beautiful as a young Edith (Wasikowska – Stoker) receives a spooky warning from her dead mother. The effects were fantastic.

The first act was slow burning BUT watchable as we flash forward to a now twenty something Edith striving to make a career as a writer. Dan Laustsen’s cinematography was stunning to look at. It really captured the epic and lavish set designs. The Pride and Prejudice melodrama with Edith trying to avoid marriage was a little cliched and slackened the pace BUT it was entertaining enough.

Charlie Hunnam’s Dr McMichael (Sons of Anarchy) was weak. I’m sure his bashful crime enthusiast was supposed to make the charismatic Sharpe look more appealing. BUT his character didn’t have to be such a drip. His Sherlock inspired ramblings didn’t get things going either.

As soon as the illustrious Thomas Sharpe made his introduction, my interest was properly Peak-ed. Tom Hiddleston (Only Lovers Left Alive) played the mysterious count with aplomb. Charming his way straight into Edith’s heart. The whirlwind romance and shotgun wedding was a little rushed. BUT luckily there was always a bigger plan afoot.

And once Sharpe’s strange sister (played by the ever talented Jessica Chastain – Mama) was brought into the mix, I was in for a suspenseful middle act. The whispering, the glances, Chastain’s cold demeanour. Once her muddled English accent was tuned, she was brilliant. She worked well with Hiddleston and the pair made a notorious duo.

It was everything I expected from the moment Edith stepped foot in Alderdale Hall. A wonderfully Gothic setting. A dilapidated manor with a haunting presence complete with rotten mould, decay and dead bugs. It wasn’t long (Thankfully) before things went bump in the night. It was hypnotic viewing. The mystery behind the Sharpes and the house kept me intrigued. The long Shining-esque hallways, the cold dark passages, the scuttling crimson soaked skeletons. Creepy. Brilliant.

BUT for all the mystery and suspense, I was left wanting. After all that build up and Del Toro toying with us, the big reveal was a little disappointing and predictable. Tragically, the final minutes were also a little laughable with Edith squealing and flailing around the ‘Crimson Peak’ estate. A shame considering the picturesque winter setting. The snow bludgeoned with crimson clay. Or was it?

The supernatural element was the redeeming feature as the ghosts desperately try to relay messages to Edith. The unearthing of the puzzle was fun enough as we tried to suss out Sharpe’s intentions. A little twist about the Sharpes was certainly different BUT it only created more holes in the already wafer thin plot. It was never really explained properly. A shame after all that promise.

This is a vast improvement from Del Toro and a return to form (of sorts) after the monstrosity that was Pacific Rim and the Fringe inspired vampire TV series The Strain. Crimson Peak was a wonderfully shot old fashioned Victorian horror story. The leading cast were superb, the cinematography was to die for.

BUT the pace meandered along and the end result just didn’t quite deliver a satisfying enough climax after all that promise. Watchable though.

3/5

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JOHN WICK REVIEW

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Woah! If you’re looking for a half decent action flick, I’d pick Wick.

An ex-hitman (Keanu Reeves) comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.

Reeves’ deadpan delivery and ultra-serious demeanour have finally found its home.

This is probably the best I’ve seen him act in some time. His whispery voice, stone faced pallor and wooden delivery suited the mystery action man.

What I liked about John Wick was that it didn’t mess around. It set the premise up and got down to business. The only gripe I had about the opening was that it was a flashback. We watch Wick collapse to the floor bleeding out while looking at a video of his wife.

It wasn’t necessary and while everything else was entertaining enough, that little niggle kept reminding me that this was all a flashback. The hitman will get hit.

Wick gets the adorable little beagle within the first few minutes. And loses him with fifteen. I kid you not.

We get a sense of the isolated life that John has made for himself straight away. You could relate to his frustration and aggression quite easily. His angry test track burn out on an empty airfield demonstrated that perfectly.

I expected more flashbacks or flickers between him and his wife. Bridget Moynahan (Blue Bloods) had the easiest job going. What is it with directors giving talented supporting actresses meaningless roles? An extra could have played her part.

Now I must reiterate that this is not just a revenge movie over a dog. Apologies to the RSPCA lovers but the dog is merely a symbol of John’s love and grief. The fact he was not allowed to grieve.

That right metaphorically taken from him in the form of a bludgeoned beagle. The death was off screen and done as subtly as possible for anyone who doesn’t fancy seeing a little pup punished. So John seeks out vengeance on the idiots who thought it was funny to cross him.

If anything, it was all over a car. A Mustang. Wick didn’t want to sell and Alfie Allen’s cocky spoilt gangster brat Iosef Tarasov REALLY wanted it. What a fool. He really picked the wrong guy.

Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones) may be getting type cast at the moment with playing creeps but he does it so well. A snarly little toe rag in desperate need of a slap or two.

The mystery surrounding Wick and his past are never really explained or explored. It’s infuriating in one instance but great in another. I loved the respect and code of honour among the gangsters and assassins in this seemingly ruthless and cutthroat business.

Michael Nyqvist (The original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) was superb. A perfect adversary to Wick. His reaction when his son informs him that he has stolen from Wick. Fear, terror and anger.

The build up was just right. The gangsters preparing for battle. Wick breaking up a hidden briefcase with gold and guns under his concrete floor. You know. The usual.

The gold? Some strange currency that the assassins pay each other off with. Baffling. A gold coin here and there. No questions asked.

I like to have everything resolved. It’s not as if everything wasn’t self explanatory. BUT I wanted to know more about the underbelly and society that Wick desperately tried to escape. Not bad for a shoot em up. I actually wanted to know more about the story.

The hotel was an interesting set up. It added an extra dimension to something that should have been a bog standard actioner. The establishment even has rules. No killing without cause or authority. Mental.

There was quite a good supporting cast. Shame that some weren’t really used to their full potential. Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights) was stunning as the sultry assassin out to break said rules. Ian McShane (Deadwood) was pretty much Ian McShane but played the hotel owner Winston with aplomb. I wanted more of him. Scene stealing at every chance.

John Leguizamo and Lance Reddick (Fringe) were reduced to small roles. They did their best with the parts. Reddick with his stern prowess as The Hotel Manager being a particular highlight.

Considering Reeves is 50, he can still kick an ass or two. Not quite ready for the Expendables scrap heap yet. If a Matrix reboot (Because let’s be honest, it’s only a matter of time) was ever on the cards, he could still do it.

The fight sequences were fast, frantic and furious. If a little repetitive. There are so many hand gun combinations you can do in a fight scene without them being flat out ridiculous or just tedious.

It was a lot better than I expected. Violent, brutal and mental in one instance. Mysterious and intriguing the next. The pace may dither in parts and the end result was always going to be a predictable one but I can certainly commend the writers for trying to do something a little different or at least make it worth watching.

3/5

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 REVIEW

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I’d rather have had a shotgun to the d**k than endure this again . . .

That’s what I thought I was going to say.

“What is it? It’s like it’s some kind of . . . hot tub time machine”. Cue the cheeky look at the camera from Craig Robinson.

I literally watched the first installment hours before viewing this. My friends couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it. For all the hype, I expected more.

It wasn’t bad. It was nowhere as stupid as I thought it would be. BUT it got me laughing and for the right reasons. Something I haven’t been able to say for some time.

And now a sequel. Five years later and no Cusack, was it even needed? Did it manage to entertain or did we have a mindless re-tread of the same old thing but just not as good?

Well, we did have a re-tread of the same old thing but it still just about did the job.

When Lou (Rob Corddry) finds himself in trouble, Nick (Craig Robinson) and Jacob (Clark Duke) fire up the hot tub time machine in an attempt to get back to the past. But they inadvertently land in the future with Adam Jr (Adam Scott). Now they have to alter the future in order to save the past – which is really the present.

It never felt like we left them. Lou is reaping the benefits of changing the future by owning Lougle (Not Google) and the word, Um.

Um . . . You owe me money!

Nick is still having problems with his wife, Courtney. Yeah, that annoyed me the first time round but hey at least he’s a music mogul. Delivering hit after stolen hit. I gotta feeling. “Wait a minute. I think I got a song coming”.

While Jacob is wandering around a giant mansion, dressed as a butler and dealing with the fact that Lou is his father.

Corddry was everything you expected. Loud, in your face, mental and a little irritating to begin with. Just like the first one. I think that was kind of the point but he really did go on.  I prayed for something to happen to him.

Luckily, something did. For proper Hot Tub fans, the result was exactly what you’d expect. There was a lazy red herring sub plot going on in the background (Without spoiling too much) that was so boring and predictable. BUT it wasn’t long before the guys were back in the tub and causing more havoc.

I loved all the little in-jokes. You could say it was lazy but it worked. I would recommend you see the first one to understand some of the better gags. The massive squirrel statue might go over people’s heads.

As soon as the guys are getting wasted in the tub, it ticked all the boxes. The snappy one liners, the funny insults, the random mascot, Chevy!

Chevy is looking old. To be honest, his cameo was literally 30 seconds. I was hoping he would pop up throughout like the first one BUT with Jacob stocked up with the “Know How” (The “know how” being his encyclopedic knowledge of sci-fi movies), it did deem him a little unnecessary. It was still good to see ol’ Clark Griswald.

“Everything is always Terminator!” The endless sci-fi movie references to explain the timey wimey guff definitely played up my nerd side; Fringe, Looper, Back to the Future. That definitely got a titter or two out of me. “Nerrd, nerrrd and no one likes you”.

Sorry! Robinson and Corddry’s improvised nerd song every time Jacob discussed some plot exposition is a joke I know I’ll be using on my mates for the foreseeable future.

The film constantly toys with the appearance of Cusack. But I will warn you now, there is definitely NO John Cusack. His non-appearance and the constant promise of his return was as disappointing as Charlie Sheen’s no show in the Two and a Half Men finale.

I was disappointed that Cusack wasn’t in it for at least a blink and you’ll miss it cameo. I didn’t think his character was that funny but he seemed to be the anchor that weighed down this drug induced voyage from going out and out bonkers! I also expected Crispin Glover to appear with some hand related shenanigans. NO! Nadda not a zip!

Gillian Jacobs (another Community regular after Griswald) was pretty . . . good. What? She played Adam Jr’s ditsy fiance well and delivered the finest movie title reference punch line EVER! No SPOILERS but bravo!

It was a bit hokey and incredibly lazy in how they roped Adam’s son into the mix but luckily there was enough rapid one liners and shenanigans to take your attention off it.

Adam Scott managed to make his bland character a lot funnier and memorable than I expected. His taste of a new superdrug and his “God like” abilities were ludicrous, stupid but funny as hell.

The future backdrop was ripe for opportunities. The problem is they seem to go for the predictable ones. The drugs, the booze, the birds. Still funny to watch but it felt a little too much like the first.

A virtual simulation challenge in a demented reality TV show called ‘Choozy Doozy’ (a show in which the audience sets a challenge and the celebrity must do it) managed to out-gross a certain bathroom bet scene in Hot Tub. Oh yeah, that’s right. If you don’t know what I mean, good luck. Disgusting but so funny!

Hot Tub 2 cranks it up to 11. For some, it will be a breath of fresh air. For others, they’ll pull a face like they’ve just discovered a foul smell.

BUT the guys still kept it watchable. The endless “You look like . . .” gags shouldn’t have worked but they did. “You like Gandalf the poor!”, “You like you should be advising Lando Clarissian”.

The banter was on point. Lou and Jacob’s constant put downs of Nick’s future hit, “The Webber Strutt” comparing his dance moves to dick picking from a tree got a snort from this nerd.

The whole futuristic auto-piloted Smart Cars that fed off people’s emotions was an interesting concept. The thought of a car taking a hit out on Lou was funny to start with but it never really went anywhere. And then you realise, hang on. Lou is trying to be killed by a car. What?!

The last 20 minutes or so did go on. It got a whole lot crazier, a whole lot sillier (Adam Jr’s balls swell up from a sustained superdrug overdose. Cue a syringe, swearing and lots of liquid. YUCK!) and REPETITIVE.

It fizzed out and ended so ridiculously corny by the end. Lou coming to accept that he is a terrible husband, father, etc. Boo hoo. Cue an inevitable father/son confrontation with Jacob. It’s all so hammy. Look, I know the time travelling concept was always THE joke but the plot holes were just terrible.

It was reprieved slightly by an unexpected ending (that definitely hints at another) and a credit sequence that matched 22 Jump Street in bonkersville!

It doesn’t deserve the low rating it received on IMDb. It’s big, dumb, rude and stupid. BUT it delivered the laughs and killed the time. NOT perfect by any means BUT if you’re up for a laugh, it ain’t half bad.

2.5/5

THE GUEST REVIEW

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This is one house guest you won’t want staying around. Crawley is back and kicking ass. Dan Stevens has definitely escaped from the dusty confines of Downton Abbey and boy . . . what a film to break the mould.

Stevens is incredibly charismatic and proves that he can handle the leading role with ease. He was one to watch after his turn as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey, but this performance will certainly put him on the map. However, it appears Hollywood have already clocked him with a supporting role in the new release of the Neeson crime showpiece, A Walk Among The Tombstones.

Now brought to you by the people who did You’re Next. When I read that, I dreaded what laid in store. I hated You’re Next. It completely flipped what I thought would be a solid slasher flick and turned it into a ridiculous farce. As soon as the opening credits of The Guest began with the highly elaborate overture that usually belonged to the 80s B-movie flicks, I was anxious. However, once Stevens flashed the pearly whites and unleashed that perfect American drawl, the anxiety dropped and a slow burning, suspenseful tension soon had me hooked as we try and decipher the intentions of the all too helpful lodger.

What’s it about? A soldier (Stevens) introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence.

A hint of A Shadow of a Doubt hovers over this indie action hit. In one moment, Stevens’ David works the charm offensive off every one in the screen, in the next he’s ready to destroy them. His unpredictability certainly makes for good viewing. However, one person isn’t buying it and that is Maika Monroe’s bizarrely dressed Anna Peterson. I don’t really pay attention to what people wear in movies but Monroe’s waitress stripper look was just strange and unattractive. The electro-infused soundtrack certainly made for interesting listening. Hypnotic at times but also balls-out random, which pretty sums up the movie and the finale in a nutshell.

The small cast play their parts well. Leland Orser’s (ER) frustrated feeble father, Joel David Moore’s pathetic pothead (Bones) and, scene stealer, Brendan Meyer’s Luke. Meyers delivered some of the better encounters with David. A tense encounter in a bar with some school bullies allows for cracking one liners and funny exchanges. Once Monroe seems to get over her sulking phases of having David in the house, she soon becomes a more interesting character. Especially with the fractious sexual tension inevitably blossoming between her and Stevens.

A little too much time is spent on the exchanges and glances that it slows the pace of the film down. However, the final 15 to 20 minutes came out of nowhere. The film goes in a completely different direction when Lance Reddick’s straight faced  (Fringe/The Wire) secret soldier creeps out of the woodwork. Now I think it will be down to the change in tide that will either make or break the film for people. For me, it made it so much better. For others, they may have preferred another route. Normally I am the latter. I’m staying cryptic because I want people to see this but it’s rapid, violent and balls-out (a lot of balls-out this time) reckless.

3.5/5 for me. Action packed, dark, funny, if a little long at the tooth in parts with an all out shoot em up and slightly abrupt finale. But not bad, not bad at all. Films aren’t testing me today.