*NEW* ALLIED REVIEW *NEW*

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I surrender.

Good chemistry does just enough to make this typical Hollywood war romance watchable.

In 1942, a Canadian intelligence officer (Brad Pitt) in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war.

Was this really penned by the man who gave us Peaky Blinders?

BUT at that same stroke, he gave us Locke and Mockingbird . . . So . . . yeah.

The opening act was slow burning BUT engaging as Pitt’s (incredibly bad CGI’d) Vatan descended onto the French Moroccan desert.

The tension slowly bubbling as the officer set out on his mission. The secret rendezvous. The cloak and dagger meetings. The questions piling up.

Cotillard stole the show from the get go. I expected nothing less as she did her best to hide Pitt’s school boy French. BUT it allowed for a nice icebreaker between the pair as they gathered Intel and rehearsed each other’s cover stories.

The detail was ridiculous from Vatan’s threads to perfecting his “Parisian” twang. He even had to sleep on the roof to establish the couple’s “reunion” as the neighbours watched from the windows.

The pace dragged BUT the pair’s blossoming partnership and chemistry made up for it as we played the waiting game. Cotillard’s Marianne proving she is more than just a piece of arm candy and up for the task in hand to the stern and dreadfully serious Vatan.

Don Burgess’ cinematography certainly left little on the eye. Casablanca didn’t look quite as romantic as the 1940s classic, that’s for sure. BUT that didn’t stop director Robert Zemeckis and co. piling on the cheese.

A little too Hollywood for my liking. No, really. I had to laugh at their whirlwind romance. Captured perfectly in a hilarious sandstorm bonk. Peer-leasseee.

Zemeckis’ track record has been hit and miss for the last 15 years BUT he knew how to deliver the suspense as the pair took on their risky mission. It was edgy, brutal and surprisingly violent.

BUT when the pair went back to London, the pace was tragically put on the back burner as they got hitched and had a child.

I had to cringe at Cotillard giving birth in the middle of an air raid. I’m sure it was meant to be a sweeping statement that war stops for no one BUT it was far too hammy.

Luckily it wasn’t long before the game was afoot again with a suspect Nazi agent in the ranks. The only problem was that the agent in question was Marianne.

Simon McBurney (The Conjuring 2) was quite creepy as the appropriately titled ‘Ratcatcher’. I wish he was in this more. Jared Harris’ (Mad Men) Frank Helsop, on the other hand, was a little tally ho and what for not. Shame.

The two men assigned to putting Vatan’s life in misery. My interest was finally peaked as Vatan sought to prove Marianne’s innocence; with failure to do so resulting in their execution. Grim stuff.

The final act delivered more of what I had expected from the get go. It was tense and, despite my grumbling, I was still guessing right up to the very end as Vatan had to re-evaluate the very woman he fell in love with.

I just wish Zemeckis had given us more suspense. I hadn’t been so anxious waiting for a phone to ring (Those who have seen it, will know what I’m talking about).

The lines weren’t quite as crisp or as memorable as I’d hoped and made some of the more dramatic scenes a little clunky. Oh . . . and Brad Pitt’s angry chair kick had me in stitches.

The supporting cast left little to be desired. Anyone could have played Lizzy Caplan’s (Now You See Me 2) part as Vatan’s sister. If at all. She was completely unnecessary and her silly romance with Charlotte Hope (Game of Thrones) felt tacked on and in the wrong film altogether.

I was more interested in Matthew Goode’s (The Imitation Game) disfigured war vet. He made more of an impression in five minutes than all of Caplan’s encounters combined.

I actually wanted to know more about his past with Vatan and the reasons behind his neglected hospital imprisonment. BUT alas, it was not to be.

Allied wasn’t as bad as I had originally anticipated. The two leads’ chemistry kept things watchable. It just felt like we had seen it all before and done much better.

Moments of quick violence and gore with patchy suspense sequences just didn’t quite cut it.

A watchable, if dreadfully muddled, affair.

So-so, all sport.

2.5/5

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*NEW* THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. REVIEW *NEW*

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Slick, cool, funny. Guy Ritchie is back with a bang!

In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill – Man of Steel) and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer – The Lone Ranger) participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

I know that this was based on the original TV show BUT I’ve never seen it so I can’t make comparisons on Ritchie and writer Lionel Wigram’s (Sherlock Holmes) adaptation.

The first hour was action packed and reminded me of the spy movies of old. An elongated opening car chase ticked all the boxes (Even if it was hindered by shoddy CGI). It certainly injected the fun back into the spy genre. Now that the Bond films have gone in a darker direction, I felt the corny one liners and light humour was a much needed tonic. Giving the piece a nostalgia feel.

Cavill was fantastic as Solo. The more I watched him steal the show, the more I thought to myself, “Bond”. Despite playing an undercover CIA asset, he would have been a perfect replacement. The looks, the charm and the charisma. But alas, the Justice League has claimed him as the Man of Steel for the foreseeable future.

I loved the dynamic between the trio. They were perfectly cast. The fiery Alicia Vikander playing the reluctant mother to two sparring boys. Cavill and Hammer worked well together and made Solo and Kuryakin’s fractious relationship entertaining as hell. “This is not the Russian way!” It was good to see Hammer excel as ‘The Red Peril’ after the lacklustre Lone Ranger.

The quick witted exchanges and uneasy tension kept me going (Through some of the sillier moments) with the pair constantly trying to get one up on each other at every turn. From their overcompensating gadgets and hotel room bug stand-off to dressing Gaby (Vikander) for her cover -“The shoes won’t match. They don’t need to match”.

Vikander and Hammer had great chemistry as Gaby is reluctantly assigned to Kuryakin as his undercover fiancee. I just wish Vikander’s back story was more interesting. The story line involving her missing scientist father was a little weak. I loved how we only got tidbits of Solo and Hammer’s past.

Jared Harris was wasted in his small supporting role as Solo’s handler Adrian Sanders. He delivered yet another another mangled accent BUT at least this one was better than his Irish rendition in that horrific Poltergeist remake.

However, the second half of the film was where things went wrong. It was very clunky and disjointed. The tone was mismatched and took a much more serious turn that didn’t quite work. A highly macabre scene involving the pair bickering while their suspect was being roasted on an electric chair in the background was too much. Especially after the easygoing pace and playful banter.

And tragically, the pace did get hampered by the plot. And for all its “complexities”; the story was far too predictable. Typical guff involving Nazis and the Cold War. Go, figure! It killed a lot of the fun and momentum that had kept me entertained for 60-odd minutes. The inevitable double bluffing and backstabbing between the team got a little long at the tooth for me.

Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager) was wasted as the femme fatale Victoria Vinciguerra. She did her best with the role but was left in the background far too much. Only coming back for the frantic finale.

The same can be said for Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral). God, he’s looking old. He wasn’t in it enough. His renowned bumbling and quick witted exchanges a welcome return; “For a special agent, you’re not having a particularly special day, are you?”.

The finale brought everything back into play and made up for a stumbling middle act with a mad dash explosive climax and (Hardly a spoiler!) it left things open for another. One sequel I would look forward to watching.

If Ritchie and co can just trim the length, get a better baddie then we’ll be good to go. BUT this is still worth a watch if you’re in for the mood for a cool spy caper with a great cast.

3/5

POLTERGEIST REVIEW

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Pol-turd-geist!

Consider my faith in horror movies extinguished.

Another horrific remake stains the silver screen and makes one unhappy and frustrated film goer throw in the towel.

A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take her captive.

As soon as I heard that this cursed horror classic was being remade, I screamed “Why?” Why waste money and time on remaking films that didn’t need to be touched?

The trailers may have done their job of piquing my interest but they could have at least made an effort with the story, the characters, the scares and the actual film.

Hollywood must be scraping the bottom of the barrel. I just discovered that there is a Point Break remake due for release? Has the world gone mad? Can they not think of anything original or even remake a bad movie? I can think of hundreds. Apparently the studio heads can’t. Hell, they could remake the the majority of the horror films that were released this last year alone!

The original was a classic. Flawed but weird and, most importantly, creepy. This turgid affair was laughable. Seriously the audience were in tears. Not of fear but actual laughter.

The 3D gimmick was the only reason I gave this any points. It was still lazy and desperate but it worked. But compared to the bland acting and clichéd dialogue, of course it would.

Sam Rockwell “Rockwelled” the place up. He was probably the only saving grace. Shame he was barely in it. Kennedi Clements was also excellent as the adorable little Madison. Giving Heather O’Rourke a run for her money. Hell, she acted better than the rest of the cast.

Jared Harris’ performance was terrible. A prolific actor reduced to a parodic (Well, I should say moronic) role. The character Carrigan Burke was a joke. The silly videos promoting his highly televised paranormal TV show got a cheeky laugh. Poking fun at the Derek Acorahs of the world.

The only problem was that he completely killed any tension or suspense that the film desperately needed. He also seemed to forget that he was supposed to be Irish and then halfway through the film, he really thickened his accent up. It was comical for all the wrong reasons.

Plus he didn’t contribute anything to fighting the poltergeist. He just bellowed, “Leave this family!” and got sucked up in the wormhole when there was no need.

You know the film is failing when the best moment is a 3D demon squirrel flying at you out of the screen. You read that right. A 3D demon squirrel.

The clowns were creepy. BUT they were rushed into the mix far too quickly. Desperate for a quick fright. Sacrificing suspense for a naff scare. It had enough to scar anyone who may have a slight phobia of clowns but it was done so badly that I thought I was watching Scary Movie 2.

Also, why the clowns? What was the relevance? Nothing to do with poltergeists, cursed burial grounds, nothing. “Sometimes, son. People collect weird stuff”. Really? That’s it.

It didn’t help that the moment was ruined by young Griffin being dragged out of his room by a tree? Seriously. This all happened. A lazy Evil Dead gag that failed on all fronts. That aerial shot when the parents pull up on the drive to see him dangling from said tree was hilarious!

The house wasn’t even built on an Indian burial ground. Some passing reference poking fun at the original’s ridiculous premise may have been noted. But what the writers offered up in this monstrosity managed to make that a masterpiece. No curse or creepy backstory. Just some old cemetery that was dug up and moved away. Riiggghhhttt.

The bits that would have made you jump were flogged heavily in the trailers. If you were lucky not to see them, then you might have a jump or two. The endless screaming and corny exchanges were not even funny. Look. If you have a muddy corpse crawling out of the ground, you don’t stand there and scream at it! You bloody run!

Or even worse. Every time the family would survive an encounter or little fright, they would hug each other and say how sorry they are for being a useless father, daughter, son. Get out of the house!

What annoyed me was that there was a slow opening build up that had potential. The characters were actually given a little depth. Griffin battling his ongoing anxieties. Rockwell’s father struggling with money problems. But it went nowhere and didn’t matter by the end. A waste of time. Which summarizes my experience of this film.

The only scare people will get is the ticket price.

The horror, the horror!

1/5

THE BOXTROLLS REVIEW

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I laika it but I didn’t love it. From the makers of Coraline and Paranorman comes a delightfully animated, if predictable affair that certainly impresses in detail but lacks in story. Enough for the little ‘uns but I can’t help but feel that some of the darker and more satirical moments may whizz over their head and leave them fidgeting in their seats.

As I’ve said before; kids films, or should I say, family films are always a challenge. They have a lot to aspire to and must have enough pace, character and story to entertain children and adults. But normally, a good portion of the time you can bank on them to deliver the goods. Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks have proven this time and time again. They are normally the films I can rely on in the ever growing list of mediocre and plain right terrible movies I’ve had to endure this year.

Now the American stop-motion studio Laika certainly delivered with the creepy but brilliant Coraline. ParaNorman was a mixed bag. A watchable one. At its best, dark, very funny and endearing. But let’s not forget the ending wasn’t perfect. It felt like it had run out of ideas and rushed towards a corny and flat finale.

So what’s this one all about? The Boxtrolls are a community of quirky, mischievous creatures who lovingly raise an orphaned human boy named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright – Game of Thrones) in their cavernous home built beneath the streets of Cheesebridge. However, when evil exterminator, Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls. Eggs decides to venture above ground and “into the light”.

Eggs? That’s right. Eggs because that was on the box that our protagonist chose to wear. A nice touch.

The opening was a little slow and a little dark with a Boxtroll appearing to steal a child and Snatcher brokering a deal with the high class elite who appear to be wasting the town’s budget on fancy hats and rich cheese. A fun poke at the inevitable class and society issues that still plague the present day.

The little ones may find themselves fidgeting a little bit. Even I could feel my eyes looking at my watch. That is until our little cardboard creatures finally make their appearance.

The animation is fantastic. Once the little sewer gremlins emerge from their cavernous domain and begin scavenging the streets, I was in awe. Their little expressions and the detail in which they use their boxes as props to climb over gates and as cover from any passing humans. Their bickering and amusement with the rubbish dumped on the streets made them instantly loveable and entertaining.

The 3D was a complete waste of time. Thoroughly disappointing as this film would have been the perfect platform. Also pretty poor with the inflating ticket prices and decreasing cinema numbers. Do not invest.

The cast were perfectly chosen for the roles. And what a cast! Hempstead Wright has already made an impression with Game of Thrones but certainly delivers a solid voicing performance. But he was always going to fall second fiddle to the legend that is Sir Ben Kingsley. His prowess and talent just adds so much to the delightfully disgusting Archibald Snatcher. His name must surely be a nod to the infamous child villain, the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Only a more demented version, with top hat in tow, of course.

Richard Ayoade (Moss from The IT Crowd), Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) and Tracy Morgan (That’s right! 30 Rock) were brilliant as Snatcher’s numbskull henchmen who constantly try and justify with one another that they are really the good guys. Not enough of them in my opinion.

Elle Fanning (Maleficent) was fantastic as the stroppy but feisty Winnie who befriends Eggs. Jared Harris (Mad Men) and Maurice LaMarche (Futurama) were also voices that stood out in the gang of mindless elitist cheese fanatics.

The Boxtrolls is watchable and at times quite fun. The chase sequences and the encounters with the Boxtrolls were a sight to see. But for me, the story just didn’t seem to flow that well. It seemed a bit mechanical and all a bit predictable. Desperate twists and turns were pulled out of nowhere as the film meandered along.

Twists that were hardly revelatory or necessary for that matter. The whole spiel early on that the Boxtrolls were cannibalistic murderers was always going to be a bluff. Eggs and Fish (the Boxtroll who “adopted” him)’s relationship was nicely done and you could feel for the pair, even if half of the time you couldn’t understand what they were saying to one another. A running joke that happens every time Winnie demands a translation.

Eggs’ adjustment into the human world after ten years of “captivity” was an endearing and funny opportunity. His introduction to a high class social party brought the odd chuckle. But the tone seemed to be too uneven. Coraline was endearing but deliciously dark. Boxtrolls starts off dark. Goes full slapstick and cheesy. Then a little darker with a rushed and incredibly corny finale.

It felt like it wasn’t sure how far to push or how dark to be. An achilles heel for Snatcher was an unexpected twist that led to a deliciously macabre finale.

There’s enough for everyone. Silly boxtrolls for the kids (and adults) and macabre Dickensian visuals with a drop of class satire. Not bad by any means but will it stand against the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Caroline or even ParaNorman? Sadly, not for me.

3/5

POMPEII REVIEW

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Pompeii – Perrrleaaaaseee.

Another big, dumb, needless blockbuster on a piece of history. However, that being said, the town has become a major site for tourism so . . . Moving on.

BUT despite it’s cliche-ridden by the numbers plot line and generic characters; the visual effects were outstanding, the 3D a worthy investment and I was kept entertained for the next 105 minutes.

Let’s be honest, Paul W S Anderson’s past efforts have hardly been groundbreaking (The Resident Evil franchise, Alien Versus Predator, The Three Musketeers). Pompeii is certainly one of his most ambitious efforts. Visual imagery, special effects and action have always been his forte but he would always spoil it with naff characters, ridiculous plot holes and boring predictable story lines.

Pompeii, like it’s aftermath, is a bit of a mess BUT a watchable one.

Arise, Jon Snow (no, not the Channel 4 news anchor) I mean – Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), an ever rising star. Harington proves yet again to be a strong, likeable lead. Granted, his character is pretty much Jon Snow in gladiator mode but it still works. He has enough charisma and sultry sulking to keep everybody happy. And if his body was really that toned, then I need to hit the gym.

Pompeii is pretty much about a volcano. You don’t say? A slave-turned-gladiator finds himself in a race against time to save his true love, who has been betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. BUT as Mount Vesuvius erupts, he must fight to save his beloved as Pompeii crumbles around him. O-err!

The opening zips along quite well even if it skimmed through the predictable cliched Gladiator/Spartacus/Conan plot lines. BUT it quickly set up who was who and got the ball rolling. Harington’s back story was lazy. Northern Britannia? Really? Londinium? (Oh wait. That was actually called that).

The 3D doesn’t jump out the screen at you but it certainly makes everything so much more prominent. The trees and houses really force their presence on the screen. We are soon thrown into the picturesque Pompeii where Milo (Harington) falls for the (already spoken for) Cassia (Emily Browning – Sucker Punch/The Host).

Browning and Harington convey enough chemistry to make the laughable corniness of their inevitable romance watchable. The whole horse thing in order for them to meet was unbelievably cheesy. Jon Snow. Gladiator and part time horse whisperer. Brilliant.

I must commend the supporting cast for managing to make such stocky characters memorable. I can’t believe that Jack Bauer – I mean Kiefer Sutherland was in this as Corvus. He has enough panto menace to make a vicious villain. BUT his mish-mesh accent had me in stitches. Fair play to Jack for giving it a crack though. This was worth seeing alone for the Bauer blade off with Jon Snow. A nerdgasm for any TV addict.

Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje was very good as Atticus; a retiring gladiator on the verge of winning his freedom. He works well with Harington and they make a decent duo. To be honest for all the cheesiness, you do end up rooting for the chaps.

Jared Harris (Mad Men) and Carrie Anne Moss (The Matrix franchise) were wasted in this. They do their best to portray the conflicted parents torn between honouring their civic duty and protecting their daughter from the lechy Corvus. For the Matrix fans, poor Trinity suffers a demise that may look a little too familiar. Yes, really. Had me in stitches too.

The lovely Jessica Lucas (That Awkward Moment/Melrose Place) tragically played a stocky sidekick. Shame. BUT cudos to Sasha Roiz (Grimm) who managed to provide a manic minion to Sutherland’s sinister senator.

The problem for me is that when you’ve had films like Gladiator and Spartacus (not to mention the excellent TV series), you can’t help but feel that there isn’t much else to offer in plot. It’s all been done before. If you love those sort of films regardless and demand another, then here we are.

It’s action packed and once the vociferous volcano finally erupts. It was incredible to watch but my God, everything gets thrown out of the window that it was verging on parodical! People running around and getting bopped on the heads with flying rocks should have terrifying. Instead, it was bloody hilarious!

And what infuriated me was after this mad dash of a fierce finale, it ends so abruptly and flat that I could feel my temper rising like the lavary ooze of Vesuvius.

So . . . in conclusion, it’s not as bad as you think but certainly not that great either. If you go in with an open mind, you may come out pleasantly surprised but if you’re expecting a Gladiator, then go watch . . . Gladiator.

2.5/5

Also as a side note for the LOST fans when Mr Eko saw that black smoke coming out of Vesuvius. 😉 Yeah, you know.

THE QUIET ONES REVIEW

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The Quite . . . Rubbish Ones, really. A real shame, a rebooted Hammer brings us a jumpy, if tragically predictable and disappointing affair.

With the inevitable tag line, “Based on actual events”, we follow an Oxford University professor and a team of students in the 1970s as they conduct an experiment on a young girl who is believed to be possessed with a demonic force. I had so much hope for this. To be honest, horror films of late have hit an all time low, in every aspect, but the main one being scares.  I was relieved (how wrong I was) when I heard this little demon was created by the producers of the Woman in Black. A genuine suspenseful film that told a story and had scares. I mean it wasn’t that scary but the tension and performances were fantastic.

I hoped with the charismatic Jared Harris (Mad Men) at the helm of this low budget British horror, there could be something but alas it was not to be. It’s not a complete write off. I felt Sam Claflin (Hunger Games: Catching Fire) was a very likeable lead as our conflicted hero. Olivia Cooke (you may remember her from the inaccurate but surprisingly watchable hit, Bates Motel) was fantastic as the vulnerable victim. You do actually care what happens to the pair. The opening half hour builds up the suspense and sets the premise quite well. The unexpected jump here and there kept me on my toes. It made me for watchable viewing. You felt for Cooke’s character as she is interrogated like a Guantanamo Bay victim; forced to stay awake with the endless droning of Slade. I mean, come on it’s bad enough at Christmas.

The sultry Erin Richards with her diva-ish antics is easy on the eyes but nothing else. In terms of story, there isn’t much of one and when plot points are revealed, it’s quite obvious and uninteresting, most notably *FLASH! SPOILER ALERT! SKIP PAST PARAGRAPH IF INTERESTED IN VIEWING* on the reveal of a former patient’s identity. All the build up and flicking back was merely a device to spew up some much needed scares. Where the pace went along quite well, it meandered by the hour marker. Harris is entertaining, if incredibly creepy as his intent to disclaim the supernatural pushes him to the brink. It inevitably occurs in one creepy house. It was nice to see the film try and recreate the old school horror but that is soon thrown out of the window in one scene as we get a handheld camera sequence. Really? I mean, okay, Claflin is carrying a big arse camera but the effect still reeks of Paranormal Activity. Come on, we’ve had a franchise of that. BE DIFFERENT!

There’s enough tension to get the cheeky nibble on your nails or excuse to look at your mate to see if they’re scared, while waiting for impending jump moment. However, it all builds up to the same old guff with the expected, but still makes you bloody jump, last second scare. Once it’s all done, you sit back and think it wasn’t that scary. Not going to be dashing in the house and flicking on lights. It’s been done to death time and time again. Need a break altogether from this genre. Wait for us to miss these or . . . learn from them and make something much better because I know we can. Come on. 2.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks #120 out of 162!