*NEW* THE SHALLOWS REVIEW *NEW*

The-Shallows-Movie-Poster

Blake Lively in a bikini and a ridiculous CGI’d shark – what’s not to like?

A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy (Blake Lively – Gossip Girl) is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.

Jaws, this ain’t BUT once you cut through all the cheese, there lies a tense nail biting thriller that delivered everything I expected from the abomination that was Open Water.

An ominous opening involving a mangled helmet and some Go Pro footage certainly got the ball rolling. BUT that was soon hampered by Lively’s introduction. She did her best with the character and thankfully there wasn’t too much of her nauseating “I’m an American traveller in Mexico” spiel. Some guff about her visiting the same beach where her mother found out she was pregnant. Corny, I know.

It was easygoing enough as Lively’s Nancy set up on the shore and the location . . . My Goodness. Flavio Martinez Labiano’s beautiful cinematography really captured the beauty of Australia. *Cough* Sorry, “Mexico”. The clear blue oceans depressed me. The sun, the sea, the beach. I need a holiday. So inviting BUT of course, Nancy won’t be surfing alone.

The surfing scenes were actually quite good. I can never get enough Lively in slow motion (What?). BUT it was a little naff watching a stunt woman rip the tides with Lively’s badly CGI’d face. Yikes. I could feel my patience wading. 20 minutes in and no sign of our fishy friend?

Instead, we had Nancy challenged by two other surfers (I forgot their names. Let’s call them Shark Bait #1 and Shark Bait #2) and an argument over Face Time with some poorly placed multi-screens. It did give a much needed depth to her wafer thin surfer girl and there was a little more empathy behind the real reason for her cheesy quest.

Director Jaume Collet-Sera continued to tease the main star’s arrival. A darker score by Marco Beltrami, a few disorienting camera angles and the majestic waves soon became monstrous. Nancy’s board floating. The sun piercing. Every wave pressing. “One last wave . . . ” Oh that silly mistake. A dark shape flashes past.

And for the next 60 minutes, I was hooked. A game of wits against one of nature’s oldest and deadliest predators. Lively held her own and carried the film when the pace dropped. A little disappointing considering the film was only 86 minutes. BUT it got me jumping out of my seat, fidgeting uncomfortably and biting my nails off.

A nightmare situation if ever there was one. Stumbling into the feeding ground of a giant Great White Shark. Hell to the no.

Injured, afraid and left on a pile of rocks with only a few hours until low tide. The make up effects were pretty good as Nancy used her earrings to suture a gaping leg wound. Her medical student/patient mono-logging may have been a coping mechanism BUT it got on my nerves.

Thankfully she had a companion in a CGI’d seagull. Steven Seagull. No, seriously. That’s the bird’s name.

With no help coming (or being teared to pieces), Nancy takes desperate measures. Timing the the cycle that our foe takes. 32 seconds to swim from one rock to a rotting whale carcass.

I have to say that the CGI’d creature was a little hit and miss for me. It didn’t really spoil the experience or suspense BUT there were moments where I would have preferred the old mechanical monstrosity that drew Spielberg to scream profanities in Jaws.

BUT every time a fin rose to the surface, I was wincing. The seconds on our heroine’s timer running out. The closing act was frantic and nerve wracking. A final showdown on a bobbling bouy delivered a fitting homage to the ultimate shark movie. NO! NOT Sharknado.

The Shallows carried that fun B-movie feel BUT didn’t push things too far. Even if sirens went off when a flare somehow set a good portion of the ocean surface on fire.

I didn’t expect to get caught up in it as much as I did and even if the CGI left little to be desired, it was a still highly watchable and tense little thriller that is a must for the underwater horror junkies.

3/5

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THE AGE OF ADALINE REVIEW

adaline

Lively and Huisman excel in an easygoing and endearing love story. Even if you may have seen it all before.

A young woman (Blake Lively), born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man (Michiel Huisman) who complicates the eternal life she has settled into.

The concept is Forever (The recently cancelled immortal drama with Ioan Gruffudd). A freak accident and suddenly a young girl is unable to age. Predictable and a little corny BUT with an enigmatic cast and characters I actually cared about, I was happy to indulge.

Lively (Gossip Girl) delivered a sterling performance and wasn’t too bad on the eye either. What? Come on, ladies. You have Huisman’s torso to look at.

The film goes at an easygoing pace as we flick back and forth through the life of Adaline. The narration by Hugh Ross was okay to begin with. Filling in the blanks as we flash through the early years. Straight to the point and easy character building.

However, the ongoing commentary in every other scene soon got really annoying and a little unnecessary. His detailed explanation of how the lightning strike activated Adaline’s immortality just made the whole thing sound even more ridiculous. Some waffle about a scientific theory in 2035 proving this probability really didn’t help its case. Anyhoo . . .

It wasn’t long before people suspect something’s not right when Adaline hasn’t aged a day at 45. A simple traffic infraction with a local officer soon puts her on the run for the next 60 years! It was good how they tied in Adaline running from the law with the Communist witch hunt that consumed America in the 50s.

The paranoia, the questions, the reason why she stays living a life of secrecy but never truly living. She still has to make secret rendezvouses with her own daughter who has to pretend to be her grandmother. Yes, just like Forever. Ellen Burstyn (Interstellar) and Lively worked well together. To be honest, I would have been happy to see more of their relationship. Not enough of Burstyn.

We join Adaline as she is preparing herself another identity and a quiet peaceful life. That is until Ellis Jones arrives on the scene.

Huisman and Lively have fantastic chemistry and make the inevitable luvvy duvvy stuff that much more bearable. Huisman (Game of Thrones) was charismatic and made some of the cornier chunks of dialogue that bit more bearable. I don’t mind watching a couple inevitably get together as long as it isn’t too OTT and the characters are not irritating. So well done to the pair of them as we see Adaline desperately trying to turn down the advances of a man who is transfixed.

The courting ensues while the chemistry bubbles. Adaline finally lowering her guard. That is until (Not again!) she meets Ellis’ father, William. An old flame from her past.

Harrison Ford was brilliant. A return to form for Solo. He played the melancholic moper well. It certainly spiced things up as William refuses to accept that Adaline is a mere relation. The flashback sequences with younger William and Adaline melded with the present worked well.

Anthony Ingruber. I couldn’t believe how much he looked like Harrison Ford. It was uncanny. Did they have a good make up artist? CGI? If Lucas was considering bringing back the Indiana Jones franchise than look no further.

Amanda Crew (Sex Drive) was the only actress that I was disappointed with. But that was because her role was so unmemorable. If anything, her character wasn’t really needed. Other than to be another player in a family game of Trivial Pursuit. A shame.

Everything comes to a head and ends oh so predictably. BUT it was endearing, highly watchable and wasn’t the worst way to kill a couple of hours. Just don’t think too much into the not ageing thing because the explanations just made the plot hole even worse.

A great cast and great chemistry makes this one to give a go.

3/5

THE JUDGE REVIEW

The Judge New Poster

Time for a bit of R&R

Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall team up to tackle the courtroom in a predictable but highly watchable drama.

So what’s it about? Big city lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr) returns to his childhood home where his father (Robert Duvall), the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

I was surprised at the flogging this film got. I was pleasantly surprised. But then these days, I go into a cinema with such dread it’s hard not to be.

Now the first 30 minutes had me looking at the little hands on my watch. It was slow and predictable with RDJ “Starking” it up. Some people will disagree but I’m sorry. He was Tony Stark with a law degree. A fast talking ruthless lawyer with no respect for the courtroom or his peers. A perfect case example being when he openly urinates on one of his opposing counsels, ol’ Bernard from The Santa Clause, David Krumholtz.

“Did that just happen?”, laughs Downey Jr. Unfortunately, yes. And boy, has Krumholtz put on the pounds.

But once Hank returns home and reunites with his estranged father, the iconic actor that is Robert Duvall, tempers rise, old wounds are re-opened and the movie hits its stride. Duvall and Downey Jr are brilliant together and really bring their A-game to deliver a decent pairing.

It’s all a little predictable with the pair first sparring, barely speaking. That is until the murder charge. What helps is that despite it being arguably a TV movie story line, the two Roberts prove what good acting can deliver. Interest. That’s not to say that there wasn’t revelations along the way. Some worked well. Others did not. But I won’t divulge details.

There were certainly some heartfelt moments between father and son but there were also a number of missed opportunities that could have made this more than just watchable.

Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) plays her part well as the old high flame who stayed home. She has good chemistry with RDJ which helps make their inevitable and corny relationship sequences watchable. The outcome, however, was so predictable and all a little too easy with no real friction.

The same could be said for Hank’s fractious relationship with his daughter (Emma Tremblay – The Giver). The pair worked well together and it would have been nice to see more of that but it’s all resolved so easily with a trip to Grampas.

Billy Bob Thornton was, to be expected, very good as the snake toothed Dwight Dickham (I don’t think there was supposed to be an intentional pun in the surname). However, Thornton’s role was limited to mere grimaces and the odd jibe which was a shame considering the actor and potential that the rivalry could have delivered.

Especially after his turn in Fargo, this role was ripe for making a worthy adversary to RDJ but the film very much focuses on the father/son dynamic. A shame because by the end you realised that anyone could have played the role.

Vincent D’Onofrio (Law and Order: Criminal Intent) was quite good as the older brother, Glen. However I wish more was made out of Hank and Glen’s rocky relationship. A revelation that is revealed later on could have been a perfect opportunity for a lot more confrontation but was (again!) resolved so easily with Glen taking the higher ground.

Jeremy Strong (Zero Dark Thirty) was brilliant as Dale. A brother with special needs and a passion for 8mm film-making. It worked well and added something to the brothers dynamic. It also allowed for some entertaining but also endearing moments. Entertaining in the fact that Dale has no filter and tells the truth when he really shouldn’t.

A subplot involving Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) went no where. And to be honest was completely unnecessary. It had the potential to be made into something much more but was merely a running joke. A joke that wasn’t that funny and didn’t fit in with the tone of the film.

The courtroom scenes were well done but didn’t quite hit the heights that you wanted. When Duvall’s character is finally cross examined, there is a lot more tension and drama to be had. Dax Sheppard (Without A Paddle) did a convincing turn as the useless aid, throwing up before every court session to fight the nerves.

That was the issue for me. It tried to be light and comical in one instant, then dark and dramatic in another and it didn’t really excel as well as you would hope at either.

It’s well acted, watchable and certainly hits home by the closing moments. JUST . . .

Don’t JUDGE (what?) it by it’s overlong running time, there is still plenty to be had in watching two fantastic actors do what they do best. I just wish they had a better story line and script to work with.

BUT still worth a look.

The jury has reached a verdict 3/5