*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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*NEW* THE MARTIAN REVIEW *NEW*

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BRING HIM AN OSCAR.

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. BUT Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

A return to form from Scott and a stellar performance from Matt Damon makes this space flick one to watch.

For me, Scott’s films of late have not been up to much. They were certainly big, bold and beautifully shot pieces of work. BUT they were either ridiculously over complicated messes (The Counselor) or drawn out affairs (Prometheus).

Luckily, this latest offering had the perfect balance. Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography was fantastic. I didn’t think anyone could make a barren desert planet look so beautiful and deadly with the change of a lens. Superb.

The opening didn’t mess about. It set everybody up and got straight to it. It was tense, frantic and gripping as Watney is left for dead after getting caught up in a violent storm.

I know what you’re thinking. Matt Damon playing a stranded astronaut trying to sustain food and water on a barren planet. NO, it’s not the side story to Interstellar. If anything, it was Cast Away in Space. All that was missing was a volleyball named Wilson.

When telling the story of one man’s survival, it’s crucial that you have the right actor or the movie is ruined. I couldn’t think of anyone better than Matt Damon. He was charismatic and carried the film when it seemed to lull. Every time we went back to NASA, I wanted to see more of Watney.

It was interesting and engaging. I was hooked as we watched Watney battle to survive the next FOUR years from monotonous disco music . . . As well as his tempestuous planetary prison. His video logs were a good touch. Breaking the fourth wall as he explained what he was doing to stay alive. As well as keeping his sanity.

The science behind the crop planting and the water was very clever. You could almost believe that it could happen and be dealt with.

The only problem was that despite Damon’s excellent performance, some of the supporting characters fell into the background and didn’t really make a mark. Most notably in Watney’s crew with Kate Mara and Sebastian Stan.

Jessica Chastain nailed every screen opportunity she got. If anything I wanted to see more of her. BUT this wasn’t her story. Michael Pena did his best to offer comic relief and managed to make a memorable impression by the closing minutes.

Donald Glover, or should I say Childish Gambino, was a surprise supporting character. He seems to have a dab hand at this acting lark as the socially awkward super genius Rich Purnell. Kristen Wiig played the role of the PR advisor well and proved she can do serious acting. A nice change.

Jeff Daniels was a piece of work as NASA director Teddy Sanders. His sparring with Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor made for heated viewing. One primarily looking at the costs, the others concerned with the man on Mars.

The heavy theorizing and lab debates in NASA and the world did go on in parts for me and took the story away from Watney. And as Purnell tried to explain his rescue plan using two pens, I feared Armageddon story telling creeping out of the woodwork. It was only by the 1 hour 45 minute marker that I felt a little fidgety.

BUT the finale was just as enthralling and nail biting. If anything, it was everything that I wanted from Gravity. A film that failed to impress.

I was rooting for Watney through the highs and lows. This made me want to check out the bestselling novel. A must see and dare I say it.

4/5

P.S. I couldn’t fight it. I had to . . .

INTERSTELLAR REVIEW

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STELLAR casting and special effects. Shame, I just wasn’t INTER it.

I know. Not my best. BUT here we are. Well, certainly hyped. BUT did that hype help or hinder? There’s only one way to find out.

Christopher Nolan tackles the sci-fi genre in one of his most ambitious projects to date and . . . to mixed results for me.

Now for the record. I am a Nolan fan. Memento is still up there in my top movies list. Inception left me in awe. The Prestige was a well crafted thriller. I loved what he did with the Dark Knight franchise and Insomnia was an underrated crime thriller with the late great Robin Williams.

So it pains me to say that his latest offering left me unfulfilled.

I mean, science fiction isn’t my favourite genre but I love Twelve Monkeys, Blade Runner, etc.

In a nutshell, Interstellar is about a team of explorers who travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

BUT this is Christopher Nolan. And as we know, it’s never going to be that easy . . . or that simple.

He chose a perfect leading man in Matthew McConaughey. Great to see him fully resurrected from the movie scrapheap.

I will do my utmost NOT to divulge too much spoilerific information. So consider this a warning.

The opening hour was slow burning but had the slightest feel of a dystopian Signs. Thankfully without the CGI aliens allergic to water.

The idea that crop farming is a crucial asset as food and supplies are vastly running low was a scary and all too realistic premise.

I loved the satire in which the children have been re-educated into learning that man did not land on the moon, just to focus on their agricultural studies. Crazy. Delusions of grandeur no longer an option (Regardless of what conspiracy nuts think of the Moon landing).

John Lithgow was wasted in his role. He was somewhat passive and frankly unnecessary. Merely the guardian to Cooper’s kids.

Mackenzie Foy was brilliant as Murph. She worked well with McConaughey and made their fractious father/daughter relationship that much more endearing and engaging.

Murph’s fascination with a ghost in Cooper’s den made this feel more like a rural supernatural drama than a sci-fi flick.

However after an hour and some cryptic puzzle solving (keeping that as vague as I can), Cooper is soon initiated into NASA for a life-saving and utterly bonkers mission.

That did annoy me a little bit. We had all this build up for an hour or so AND THEN SUDDENLY BOOM! LIFT OFF! We’re in space.

Such a quick transition after some mind-numbing exposition about wormholes and coma-induced hyper-sleep by regular Nolan stalwart and screen icon, Michael Caine. All this scientific mumbo jumbo and not even a training montage?

Cooper is an engineer. That’s good enough for us. Chuck him on the ship. Okay . . .

Michael Caine isn’t very good at accents (AND a lot of people know that) BUT he still makes a memorable impression in his rather subdued science guy supporting role.

The cinematography of Hoyte Van Hoytema (that’s a real name) was breathtaking. A visual tour-de-force for the eyes alone. Even the desolate planet that is essentially made up of crashing waves looked stunning. This certainly rivals Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey on looks.

The second half of the film was tense, strange but hypnotic as tempers rose and theories pondered. A lot of bloody theories. Although I was intrigued by how staying on one planet for one hour would equate to 7 Earth years!  Mental!

The film score by the legendary composer Hans Zimmer complimented the atmospheric tension perfectly.

I don’t know whether it was me or the the cinema surround system BUT it was incredibly loud. So much so that it drowned out several of the characters and the scene stealers that were TARS and CASE. Seriously by the end, I wanted Zimmer to SHUT UP! I couldn’t hear what they were saying!

TARS and CASE? What the – What’s an interstellar journey across time and space without some robotic companions?!

The visual effects brought the robots to life. Their rapid wheel movements made the geek in me EEP a little. Voiced brilliantly by Bill Irwin (How The Grinch Stole Christmas) and Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds).

Irwin’s deadpan delivery made for some top notch banter between the robotic comedian and Cooper. Reducing his humour functions. I wish I could do that on a few people.

Anne Hathaway was very good as Brand. Her speech debating the ethics of love should have come off a little pretentious and long winded BUT her delivery made it highly engaging philosophical guff.

The cast was a fantastic selection BUT I felt that a few faces just blended into the background; William Devane, David Oyelowo, Casey Affleck and Wes Bentley (Oh dear!).

David Gyasi delivered a good turn as Romilly while Jessica Chastain was excellent which was crucial as the film drew to it’s mind boggling conclusion.

The quest for habitable planets did have some surprises along the way and made for some tense and exhilarating moments. A race against time as supplies and resources are running thin for our crew. Don’t worry, my lips are sealed. I ain’t saying nothing. BUT of course, there is a twist.

The twist! It’s the Nolans. Of course, there is a twist. Now, I saw it coming a mile away (Don’t mean to brag or anything). But the how? Woah. Not so much.

The explanation is crazy! Timey-wimey wormhole guff involving God knows what. Jonathan Nolan certainly put his theory of relativity into practice. BUT I felt that the deciphering and explanation went on far too long and then where I thought I had figured it out, I then didn’t and so on.

Inception had me actually stunned. This left me baffled and as I asked my colleagues what happened? I realised I did know what was going on BUT found plot holes. The scientific stuff might have been accurate but the decision making and events leading up to said twist were NOT so clear.

It didn’t help that as I went to tweet my 140 character review; the #InterstellarPlotHoles had already started trending.

The mix should have been heaven for me but it’s just didn’t deliver for me. I felt numb and had a head ache. I’m not stupid BUT this made me feel a little.

I respect the Nolans for bringing brains back to the blockbuster. It is very clever and brilliantly shot. The effects are to die for. BUT the story and pace dragged on too long for me and the final result wasn’t all it cracked up to be for me.

It’s hard not divulging plot points to quarrel elements. I mean the drone? What up with that?

It is certainly worth seeing and did something that not many films do these days. Get you thinking and talking. BUT for the right reasons? We shall see.

Timey wimey and hardcore sci-fi fans will love this. Others may feel a little bored and a little baffled. Best film of 2014? Sorry, that falls short. Different and diverse BUT also dense and difficult at times for me.

Alright, alright, alright for me.

3.5/5