THE RITUAL REVIEW

If only they could have summoned up a quicker pace . . .

A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them.

The opening act set the tone as the lads (comprising of a talented and underrated British cast) debated about their next excursion. Lulling us into a false sense of security as they bantered and bickered over locations.

I’ve had the same discussion with my friends many a time about our European outings.

However, a simple beer run soon turned everything on its head as a cowardly Luke (Rafe Spall – Hot Fuzz) hid during a botched supermarket robbery leaving his best friend to face a gruesome end.

Forward six months to a now embittered Luke begrudgingly hiking in Northern Sweden. A man still tortured by his dreams. Living that same night over and over.

The slow burning tempo complimented the piece (To start with . . . ). The air of unease, the eerily tranquil forest setting, Ben Lovett’s incredible and unsettling score.

Andrew Shulkind’s cinematography was brilliant. He managed to make a somewhat grainy outlook picturesque.

The cast delivered. A must when the premise relied heavily on four characters. Robert James-Collier (Ol’ Thomas from Downton Abbey) almost stole the show from Spall.

“Well, this is the house we get murdered in”.

The dynamic worked well and the exchanges were entertaining enough as the film teased us with creepy little tidbits; butchered animals hanging in the trees, strange Blair Witch Project like markings.

It wasn’t long before a blistering storm and an untimely injury for a party member forced the gang to seek shelter in an abandoned cabin. I loved the Evil Dead vibe. The eerie noises. And that demented Wicker Man looking effigy?!

Seriously, I would have endured the storm than stay in that cabin. Sheesh.

By the half hour marker, I could feel my interest wading BUT things took a stranger turn as the gang experienced trippy and demented Hangover style blackouts. Losing all sense of time/space/whereabouts. Straying further from their path home.

I kept wondering why we only saw Luke’s (repetitive and incredibly irritating) nightmares and none of the others? All we had was pure hearsay. Without unleashing any spoilers, I really hoped that the film was going to stray down The Thing territory BUT alas it was not to be . . .

I still loved the fact that you didn’t know what direction this film was going to take right up to the closing minutes as the gang tried to escape their impending doom.

There were a few jumpy bits with some fine moments of perfectly executed suspense and tension. Even when the inevitable bickering and rising body count began.

I also loved how we didn’t know what was attacking them right up until its big reveal in the gripping finale.

The only problem I had with The Ritual was that I thought there might have been a little more to it. After the big unveiling of the “creature”, it rushed to a frantic (albeit nail biting) climax. It just felt a little abrupt after all that build up.

BUT I was pleasantly surprised. A weird, creepy little horror worthy of your time.

3/5 (Just)

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*NEW* BABY DRIVER REVIEW *NEW*

Oh baby, that weren’t too shabby.

Fast, furious if a little frantic. One of the better ones.

After being coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), a young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

I’m not going to lie. The opening 15 minutes didn’t really give me high hopes.

Despite ticking all the boxes on the Edgar Wright movie checklist; cracking soundtrack (check), quick-cut editing (check), great humour; I wasn’t convinced about the main man.

Watching Elgort strut, prance around and mime badly to some killer tracks annoyed the hell out of me. I was actually wondering whether I was going to be able to put up with this cocky pillock.

However, as soon as the heist began and the chase was on, my griping subdued.

The car chases were exhilarating and tense with some brilliantly choreographed stunts and set pieces.

I was more empathetic towards Baby after we delved into his past and discovered the reason for the “hum and the drum” (Or should I say the reason for his insufferable need to have a music device plugged in his ear holes).

Baby’s relationship with his deaf foster father Joseph (CJ Jones – if you have a spare minute, read up on this guy. Inspirational) allowed the Fault in the Stars man to work his charm and charisma.

The supporting cast was an incredibly talented mixed bag. What the hell was Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers doing in this?!

Kevin Spacey was fantastic. Not enough of the big man. He almost stole every scene he featured in.

I was a little disappointed at how small Jon Bernthal’s (The Walking Dead) role was. I kept waiting for his character to return. Reduced to nothing more than a measly cameo.

Eiza Gonzalez was mere eye candy. Nothing more than a trigger to set off the tumultuous partnership of Jon Hamm’s (Mad Men) Buddy and Jamie Foxx’s Bats.

It made a change to see Don Draper go dark. Hamm nailed it. BUT in the battle of scene stealers, Foxx won the prize. He was menacing and brought uneasy tension to the piece. He channelled a lot of Motherf*cker Jones (Horrible Bosses fans, am I right?). The cogs always turning.

Lily James (Cinderella) was a little lost in the mix. Some of the dialogue didn’t quite come off as clever or as cool as it should have BUT the pair had great chemistry.

I felt their blossoming romance was rushed to catch up with Baby’s ongoing drama. I would have been happy to have a little more time spent on them. Anything over Elgort’s song and dance numbers.

The pair’s relationship had an echo of Scott Pilgrim as they bonded over music. Steven Price’s selections were a mad mix of hits from T-Rex to Golden Earring. Hell yes!

BUT despite my grumblings about their rushed romance, I did like the conflicted Bonnie and Clyde set up as Baby’s life of crime reached breaking point.

And this is where the film really won me over (as did the protagonist).

The quick witted humour, along with Bill Pope’s glossy cinematography, made this seem like an easy going crime caper.

Especially when one of the criminals made an almighty howler with the Michael Myers masks. Brilliant.

BUT the second half of the film (without spoiling anything) took a darker and more violent turn than I expected. The light super cool tone completely changing.

I should have realised that Wright was never shy of blood and gore. I forgot how brutal Hot Fuzz was (Man, I love that film. Need to watch it again . . . Moving on).

I was hooked. Hell, there were even a few twists along the way.

It was a fast and furious riot that made up for a stumbling and predictable middle act.

And by the time the credits rolled, I actually walked out the cinema smiling.

3.5/5

PLEASE ENJOY THIS KILLER TRACK (AND MY FAVOURITE) FROM THE ECLECTIC MOVIE SOUNDTRACK

 

CUBAN FURY REVIEW

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Get on your dancing shoes and get on it. Funny, feelgood, does what is says on the tin. Bosh.

It was never going to win plaudits for groundbreaking comedy or originality, we’ve seen it all before but at its core is an easygoing (and most importantly) funny comedy about an overweight unloved man who revives his long lost passion for salsa dancing and fights, well . . . dances for the love of his life. Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz/Spaced) always brings a likeable presence and applies his infamous comedy schtick to the role. He plays Bruce Garrett, a talented teenage salsa dancer who toured the world (Gloucester, Colchester . . . ) but gives it all up after a nasty encounter. Flashforward 25 years to the present and we see our hero plodding through life through his usual routine, with the constant ribbing and jibing of his so called friend, Drew (Chris O’Dowd – The IT Crowd/Bridesmaids). However that all changes when their new boss; the beautiful Rashida Jones (The Office USA/I Love You Man) enters the scene, cue the laughs and the rest of the film.

The journey may be the same with our hero stumbling and tumbling as he dusts off the cobwebs and reunites with his scorned mentor, Ron Parfait, the on form Ian McShane (Deadwood/Lovejoy) as he battles whether to dance or not to dance. However, it’s the supporting characters around Frost that make this film entertaining and memorable. The hilarious Olivia Colman who has excelled this year, most notably in Broadchurch, hasn’t forgotten her comedy roots (Peep Show/Hot Fuzz) as his zany sister. Not enough of her in my opinion but when she gets the time, she nails it. Rory Kinnear (Black Mirror/Lucan) and Tim Plester (you may remember him from Game of the Thrones. At the wedding. Yessss, him) play his “supportive” mates who report their “Weekly Round Up” of gaining girls numbers and making contact with one as they release their frustration at the golf course. In all fairness, they are all brilliant and all fight for the screen. However, there are two major players that stand out for me and that is O’Dowd (Come oonnnn!) and Kayvan Novak (Fonejacker/Four Lions).

Originally from the trailer I thought O’Dowd and Frost were going to be pals who unintentionally fall for the same girl and have a bit of banter. Nope. Dowd is a cocky, obnoxious, condescending . . . dick, really, who wedges in between the couple with his fat jokes and jibes. Some of the lines are brilliant. The friction between Frost and O’Dowd makes for quality viewing. The dance off car park fight sequence between the duo is worth the ticket price alone. Considering the crazy stuff the pair have done, I still couldn’t believe they did this. Hilarious OTT dance moves that makes for top viewing with an unexpected blink and you’ll miss it cameo that made it even better.

Novak is ultimately the scene stealer with the flamboyant salsa enthusiast Bejan. From his ball waxing to his still Fanta regime, the laughs come in thick and fast every time he’s on the screen. Fantastic comic relief. The dancing itself isn’t that bad and considering Frost’s build, he ain’t a bad little mover. Obviously the more complexed moves and OTT ones, you can’t help but notice that Frost has suddenly dropped a few pounds if you know what I mean. And I couldn’t help also noticing there might have been a bit of fast forwarding? However,  it might take the attention away and to be honest, the characters are that entertaining and the tone that easygoing that it’s not really needed nor does it really affect anything. There’s also great chemistry between Rashida Jones and Frost. Jones plays it quite straight faced but still stands out in a lively bunch of characters performed by a great cast. McShane as the grouchy alcoholic mentor was fantastic (I said, “Arms like an eagle”. Not a f@#king heron!). Alexandra Roach (who stood out in One Chance) was the only one I felt didn’t get a look in and got pushed into the background.

I could go on and quote some great lines and great to know that not all the best bits were in the trailers. But this film has a lot more to offer, may be a little corny and predictable but it’s fun, light and hilarious. It’s SALSA! 3.5/5

Currently ranks #50 out of 147!