*NEW* CAPTAIN FANTASTIC REVIEW *NEW*

It really was fantastic.

In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father (Viggo Mortensen) devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.

I wasn’t sure from the bizarre opening sequence whether I was going to like the whole Bear Grylls/Swiss Family Robinson vibe to the piece BUT by the end, I was completely won over.

Endearing, entertaining and heartbreaking. A feel good family film in the most dysfunctional way possible. This might even rival Little Miss Sunshine.

I couldn’t believe that this was penned and directed by that creepy guy from Big Love.

Matt Ross delivers a heartwarming story that tackles grief, rites of passage and the woes of the modern society brilliantly.

The unorthodox upbringing may raise a few eyebrows but it almost worked. A strict regime of self defense, intellectual discussions and living off the land is something that I couldn’t even muster (Let alone the majority of the younger generation).

Their campfire Kumbaya may have been a little corny BUT it established a crazy but close-knit family unit hidden in a nirvana away from the real world. Or was it?

There was a quirky and easygoing feel to the piece and with all the crazy get up they were wearing, you could have mistaken it for a Wes Anderson flick!

No?

It wasn’t long before tragic news forced the family to emerge from their natural habitat. And this was where it won me over.

The cast were perfectly chosen. The only one that grated against me was Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton). As much as you could feel for the poor lad, his incessant screaming and temper tantrums really got on my wick.

George MacKay (Sunshine on Leith/Pride) was very good as the socially awkward Bo secretly applying for college behind his father’s back.

I loved all the contrasts and social commentary; “Why is everyone fat? Are they sick?” There were some witty one liners as Ben and co. couldn’t believe the obesity and mindless brainwashing from the merciless corporations on the masses.

“You would rather celebrate a magical fictitious elf over a living humanitarian who did so much for our human rights?”

I loved the comparison of parenting styles when Ben visited his sister’s family. Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms) and Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club) were brilliant. Not enough of them in my opinion.

It was hilarious when Ben showed off his children’s knowledge on The Bill of Rights while his sister’s kids were too busy with their heads in their phones or X-Boxes.

The journey was mad BUT entertaining as the family made out they were bible bashers just to evade a curious copper’s questions about the kids’ truancy.

I was startled at Ben educating his youngest on sex, rape and capitalism. Mental. Even crazier when he faked a seizure in a supermarket for OPERATION SAVE THE FOOD so the clan could fill their boots.

The last 30 minutes was where it really hit home when Ben decides to gatecrash his wife’s funeral despite his father-in-law’s wishes.

Virgo Mortensen deserved the Oscar nod. You could see beneath all that intellectual sparring that there was a tormented man struggling to deal with the loss of his wife. Unsure what to do.

Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) was superb as the angry father in law. Blaming Ben for taking his daughter and grandchildren away from him. Deluding them into believing this way of life was acceptable.

BUT as much as you were impressed by the kids’ education and survival instincts, they were completely lost when it came to social interaction and as the story progressed, you realised that they might not be as into the idea as their grief-stricken father.

Things reaching boiling point when Bo finally decides to talk about his college application as Ben begins to re-evaluate himself.

I should have known with Alex Somers orchestrating the score that Sigur Ros’ Jonsi would pop up in this. A wonderful soundtrack.

I was pleasantly surprised and even on second viewing, it still had me through the highs and lows. 

A heartfelt, engaging family drama that is worthy of your attention.

4/5 Just!

*NEW* NOCTURNAL ANIMALS REVIEW *NEW*

nocturnal_animals_ver4

Strange, hypnotic, tense, nail biting, different. Certainly one for the books.

An art gallery owner (Amy Adams) is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel (Jake Gyllenhaal), a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

I hadn’t even sat down and got comfortable before I was wondering what the hell I was getting myself into.

I never like to read too much about a film. All I had to go by was the hype. The endless promotion and tweets. I had to seek it out. The eye popping opening sequence certainly grabbed my attention as a bunch of morbidly obese elderly naked women gyrated and flaunted their money makers across the giant silver screen.

I kid you not. I have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed with the first 15 minutes BUT director Tom Ford’s (A Single Man) hypnotic visual style (aided by Seamus McGarvey’s beautiful cinematography) and Adam’s (Arrival) presence kept me going.

Abel Korzeniowski’s musical score was something else. Perfectly balanced against the haunting backdrops.

It was only when Susan (Adams) received a mysterious manuscript from her ex husband that my interest was peaked. A dual narrative set with Susan’s (Adams) cynical lifestyle and unhappy marriage to Hutton (Armie Hammer – The Man from U.N.C.L.E) running alongside Edward’s (Gyllenhaal – Demolition) story.

Gyllenhaal was superb. He really excelled in playing both the author and his fictional counterpart Tony. Nightcrawler certainly marked a turning point in ol’ Darko’s impressive career and he delivered yet another sterling performance. Oscar?

The film flicked back and forth from Adams’ past to Tony’s fictional struggle. The only problem was that I was found myself more interested with the fictional world than the real one. I’m sure that was supposed to be the point BUT it was a little frustrating watching the talented Ms Adams become increasingly more passive. A mere spectator in her own narrative.

The cut backs conveniently appeared at the tensest moments of Tony’s traumatic journey in the desert as his family crossed paths with some unsavoury characters.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) was superb as the demonic Ray. A complete change of role for him. A revolting creature lurking in the darkness. Dare I say, a nocturnal animal waiting to strike. I really detested him. A great performance.

The suspense had me on tenterhooks as the family feared for their lives. BUT every time we cut back to Susan dealing with her empty and frustrated life, I was urging the film to get back to Tony.

The questions piling up. Why is Susan so captivated with this story? Did this happen to her? Is this why she is no longer with Edward?

The supporting cast were impeccable. Michael Shannon (Midnight Special) was equally good as Bobby. The cop with nothing to lose. Ready to do anything to help Tony get justice. Made a change to see him play something less sinister.

I was a little disappointed at the lack of Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon) and Anne Riseborough (Birdman). Reduced to passing cameos as Susan’s gallery friends. Shame. Laura Linney (Mystic River) made more of an impression in her minute role as Susan’s controlling mother.

Despite that bizarre opener, I was hooked to the very end as you began to peel beneath the layers and realize that there is more than meets the eye. Gyllenhaal and Adams had good chemistry as we finally delved into Edward and Susan’s relationship.

My only qualm on first watch was the ending. It was a little abrupt and left me baffled. I actually looked around the cinema, wondering “Did I miss something?”. Perplexed, I went to forums and discussed heavily on Twitter about the ambiguous finale.

BUT for the first time in a while, I was left talking about a film for days. It actually made me have to think. I actually wanted to watch it again. An impressive feat in itself. Especially if you look back on my last months review backlog.

It was suspenseful, engaging and brilliantly acted. There was even a moment that took me completely off guard and made quite a few people jump in the screen. One chap actually yelped in surprise (No, not me!)

If you’re in the mood for something a little different to the norm, I would heavily recommend.

4/5 (Just)

THE INTERVIEW REVIEW

The Interview Movie

The film that nearly caused a ”war”. With hype like that, it was never going to deliver up to it’s expectations. BUT it doesn’t help that it’s just not that great.

From the western capitalists that brought you Bad Neighbours and This is the End . . .

It really is what you think. Franco and Rogen apply their usual smutty spiel in a Pineapple Express meets Frost/Nixon mish-mesh.

All that controversy in the news and what do you know? It get’s released. Funny that its IMDb rating dropped from 9.2 to 6.9 after an official release date was agreed. Hmmm . . .

It’s not all bad. But my main quip with this film is that it’s the same old guff; F + R effing and jeffing, rants that go off on random tangents for far too long and, oh of course, let’s not forget the pill popping.

So what’s it about? (For those who may have missed the headlines) Dave Skylark (Franco) and producer Aaron Rapoport (Rogen) run the celebrity tabloid show “Skylark Tonight.” When they land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), they are recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission.

I knew from the get go what sort of film I was in for. The cartoon credit sequence with a Korean woman tearing up the American flag. Followed by a little girl singing “Death to America” while a nuclear missile was launched behind her said it all.

James Franco was fantastic. If not for him, this film would have bombed. Did anyone else notice how rough he was looking?

However, he played the deluded celebrity TV journalist Dave Skylark to perfection. A true egotist and simpleton. It seemed a little slow to get going. An interview with Eminem (who is looking old now!) soon livened things up.

A casual conversation inadvertently outing the rapper was a surprise. I did not expect The Real Slim Shady to suggest that his lyrics were a gay peekaboo. Brilliant.

Rogen plays Skylark’s best pal and frustrated producer. Desperate to be taken seriously and deliver real news; not that Rob Lowe is bald.

There are couple of cameos from Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s previous entries which deliver the odd chuckle. I’m not going to spoil everything now.

The bromance is still very much there. Rogen and Franco are still an entertaining couple. Normally their improvising did my nut in BUT this time around, I wanted more of it. The relentless Lord of the Rings references were starting to irritate me.

BUT it all seemed to be set up for a big punch line that I couldn’t help smiling over.

The other gags weren’t so hot. The inevitable “Me-so-sorry” lines rearing their ugly heads. Okay, the “Did you say Dong?” reference got a guilty titter. The pill popping and boozing was unnecessary and unfunny.

The alluring Lizzy Caplan did her best with her stocky CIA counterpart. If not for the “Honey Pot” debate gag, anyone could have played her. Or better yet, not needed her altogether. Shame.

The training session in which the pair must practice using Ricin was interesting but not very funny. It’s scary how poison can be transferred BUT come on, I watched 24.

So a Pineapple Express meets An Interview with a Vampire. Or reclusive maniacal leader.

How was the man in question presented? Well . . .

Randall Park was fantastic as Kim Jong-un. To be honest, he was the most entertaining character in it. BUT from a political standpoint, I could see how it could cause offense. However, I think Mr. Un needs to get a sense of humour.

I mean, come on. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, this ain’t. Hell, it doesn’t even cross Team America: World Police on the controversy scale.

He was merely a shy superfan with daddy issues. Hardly original.

Inevitably, Franco’s Skylark takes a shining to the misunderstood dictator as they bond over hookers and shooting missiles from tanks while drinking margaritas and singing to Katy Perry’s “Firework”. Yeah, you read that right.

Franco and Park were hilarious together with Rogen sitting on the sidelines. Some of Franco’s one liners were brilliant, “He’s peanut butter and jealous of us. He’s spreading KY jealous all over his balls.”

So is this really what all the fuss was about?

Well, not exactly. The final 20 minutes felt like two films meshed together and neither came off quite as well as you hoped.

The smiley superfan’s grin soon starts to crack, unearthing a demented maniac. It got a little more interesting with some actual satire. An incident involving a fake grocery store certainly got things moving in the direction I had originally expected.

There were a few moments that were just bizarre and f*cked up. They didn’t really fit in the film. Something I expected to see more in This is The End.

The strange Frost/Nixon set up at the end did throw in a few stats and suggested a little more to this chughead comedy. BUT that bubble soon burst with Jong-Un sharting on live air.

I think that controversy must have been an incredible PR stunt because beneath its fiery surface, there isn’t much else going on.

A sequence involving a drone pickup and a tiger was really funny and suspenseful. Once Diana Bang got over her “HOT” hard ass demeanour as Un’s head of communications, Sook, she was quite entertaining.

It’s big, dumb, at times quite funny but OTT and a bit of a let down.

If you were expecting something more, then you will be left disappointed. BUT if you love F + R and feel they can do no wrong then invest.

Mixed bag for me.

2.5/5