FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD REVIEW

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An engaging and brilliantly acted drama.

In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer; Frank Troy (Tom Strurridge), a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) a prosperous and mature bachelor.

I’m not normally one for period dramas but somehow this one managed to keep my attention.

I haven’t read the classic novel nor have I seen the 1967 feature with Julie Christie so I can’t make comparisons.

Carey Mulligan was superb as Bathsheba (Such a strange name). Perfectly cast as the strong willed heroine. A different kind of beauty but still a pretty young lady.

A woman desperate not to be another man’s property. Defying type and “social standing” to be her own person.

The opening act may have been slow burning but I was happy to watch the blossoming romance between Gabriel and Bathsheba.

Matthias Schoenarts delivered a very good performance. I know people were sceptical about having a Belgian as the farm hand in something that should have been a quintessentially English affair but I thought he was charismatic and had fantastic chemistry with Mulligan.

By comparison, his performance in A Little Chaos was quite wooden.

As well as dealing with the ever-growing suitors, Bathsheba inherits her uncle’s farm and is determined to restore the place to its former glories. Her dealings in the markets and with her staff made for good viewing. Resourceful and resilient, but vulnerable and anxious.

Sheen delivered a fine turn as the strange and brooding Mr Boldwood. Hell, we even got a little sing song between him and Mulligan.

I knew Mulligan could sing after her turn in Shame but it was certainly unexpected from the Sheenster.

Tom Sturridge (The Boat That Rocked) played the slick solider Frank Troy well. A slimy charmster if ever there was one.

I couldn’t help but question why Bathsheba would be interested in such a tool.

Troy was certainly enigmatic and a sweet talker but his behaviour was so volatile. Their forest fling was a strange encounter. His OTT sword swinging foreplay was a little comical for me. It killed the brewing tension between them.

BUT I understood that the action was supposed to display a sense of danger and excitement that the other suitors weren’t offering.

Is that all they do in the countryside? Shear sheep and marriage, apparently.

It was obvious that the proposals would happen. But the timing was certainly unexpected. Boldwood’s proposal was too sudden.

Sparked by a Valentine card that Bathsheba had sent as a joke. His sudden infatuation and obsession with her seemed a little disjointed. Ridiculously extravagant in one exchange, then nothing the next.

Yet somehow you still felt sorry for the middle aged extrovert.

The cast couldn’t be faltered. Their performances were flawless and I actually cared what happened to the characters.

Each suitor offering something different for Bathsheba. Security, love and danger. But all to a woman who never promised anything and already expressed that she did not want to be “tamed”.

Every time I felt my interest dipping or the pace lulling, there would be a new development or twist that kept me going. Not that my interest dipped that much, to be honest.

A merciless sheepdog with a flock certainly delivered a unexpected cliffhanger.

Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s cinematography was superb. Despite its beautifully shot idyllic backdrop, horror and grief can still strike the countryside.

The only critique I can make about the casting was Juno Temple. She didn’t make as much of an impact as I expected. The role was still important to the story line but anyone could have played her.

The ending may have been a little predictable but I still came out smiling and impressed. Don’t say that often enough.

It was easygoing, engaging and wonderfully acted. One of the better films out there.

Highly recommend.

4/5

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HORNS REVIEW

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Yawwwnnnnssss . . .

Hell hath no fury like a horny Harry.

Daniel Radcliffe delivers another standout performance. It’s just a shame that despite his best efforts, this film should go back to the fiery hole it came from.

You’re a demon, Harry.

Anyway, enough Harry Potter jokes. Let’s get down to business. I would rather watch Radcliffe rap in that weird American accent for two hours than endure this turgid affair again.

So what’s it all about? In the aftermath of his girlfriend’s (Juno Temple) mysterious death, a young man (Radcliffe) awakens to find strange horns sprouting from his temples. (That’s right, horns)

We get straight into the luvvy duvvy guff with Radcliffe and Temple cuddling up in their loveshack; a taddy old treehouse in the middle of some dreary woodland. The pair have good chemistry but it’s all a little tame and dreadfully slow.

That is until the incident. It literally flicks forward with Ignacious Perrish (You read that right. If you find that ridiculous, I haven’t even started) being accused of his beloved’s murder.

Radcliffe certainly plays the part well and I thought he mastered the American accent quite well. If you can get over that rapping cameo on the Jimmy Fallon show.

As Ig attempts to piece together his girlfriend’s murder, he suddenly wakes up very horny (Come on, stop it). Yeah, he has horns. Some lazy plot device about turning away from God and being claimed by the Devil. Blimey, if everyone did that, I’d be seeing all sorts of horny folk (Okay, let’s it).

I understand that this was adapted from Joe Hill’s gothic novel. This film certainly didn’t make me want to read it. I can accept a level (well, a degree) of fantasy and exaggeration but it goes from dead pan serious to flat out ridiculous.

And that’s the problem, the tone very much like the story line is . . . all over the place. And by the time, it makes a decision. It’s over or you’ve lost interest.

The horns were just plain weird. The fact people start acting strange. From telling the truth to performing their darkest desires stretching from a girl scoffing a box of doughnuts to a dentist banging his nurse to a comatose Ig.

Some of the confessions are comical (An old lady fighting the urge to tell an annoying toddler to shut the front door, for example). While other moments just fall flat on their arse. A scene making some lazy commentary on the news media could have been done so much better. Their initial truth telling comments were eerily realistic but the all out royal rumble in the dirt was just farcical.

What infuriated me is that while I was trying to get my head around the whole horn thing. The only thing that kept me intrigued while this film churned along then goes and flashes back to when the star crossed lovers first met as kids.

It was incredibly corny, predictable and just plain dull. In the first ten minutes, all the characters pretty much spoon fed you their origins and then we have to see it? Why?

It was only when we got to see the last few encounters before Juno Temple’s untimely demise that it got a little more interesting. A little. Her role was completely wasted, to be honest. A shame.

What really disappointed me was that the whole devil angle wasn’t really used until the last 30 minutes. The last 30 minutes of a two hour film?!

In that last half an hour, things finally kicked off (At last) with Ig embracing the darkness with a scaly necklace in tow. Busting out the old Parseltongue to his slytherin’ companions and unleashing the horny avenger.

But in between that, we had to endure predictable red herring murder mystery BS and surreal moments that had a hint of Twin Peaks . . . On crack.

Director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes/Mirrors) had a good supporting cast at his fingertips; David Morse (The Green Mile), James Remar (Dexter), Max Minghella (That British douche from The Internship) and Heather Graham.

They do their best to lift their flat and uninspiring characters. Graham and Minghella stood out particularly. Joe Anderson (Across The Universe/The Grey) was also pretty good as Ig’s brother. But all the finger pointing and flicking about led to the same old end result.

It was so obvious who it was but the how did catch me out . . . A little bit.

The jazz music interludes did my nut in. What was the point of them? It seemed every time I got interested in a scene, Aja and writer Keith Bunn would throw in something that would kill the tension or disrupt what was a good scene.

And the finale? Well, what a Keiwaste of time.

Ol’ Harry turns into a badass devil and all he does is mope, scream and get beaten up . . .  a lot. It was unbelievably flat.

A couple moments of dark humour and crafty special effects does not a good movie make. Radcliffe certainly carries the film with all the charisma he can muster. But not even his magic can work on this.

It just seemed to produce more plot holes, more questions and by the end you couldn’t care less.

If you’re a supernatural or Radcliffe nut, give it a go. But otherwise, the power of Christ compels you NOT to see this film.

In the words of Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules . . .

2/5

MALEFICENT REVIEW

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A rehashing and re-working of a timeless Disney classic that delivers fantastic special effects, great acting but somehow misses the mark.

Perhaps the cynic in me reared his ugly head. This doesn’t normally happen with a Disney movie.

Jolie was perfectly cast as Maleficent. Her presence, her voice, the looks – brilliant. With those facial Lady Gaga implants, she looked creepily thin.

The film zipped along quite well. I certainly didn’t feel like I had sat there for 90 minutes.

The opening was sickly sweet. A little too corny and cheesy as a young fairy Maleficent soars around the woodlands. Beautifully animated and shot well. The 3D being used to its full capabilities. You felt like you were flying around the screen.

The water flicking out. The creatures jumping out of the screen. The very potential of 3D finally being used.
If you were expecting a full in-depth look into the origins of Maleficent, you may be disappointed. It is soon established by the narrator that she was a fairy. An abnormally big one. A human sized one, in fact.

All the other fairies are pixie sized or have to use an enchantment but not Maleficent. But then again, it’s magic. My main niggle was that apart from some nicely acted moments and some cracking CGI set pieces, there isn’t really a lot going on which gave my cynical mind time to wander and pick at this loosely joined plot.

I mean, come on, it’s a fairy tale. They are all ridiculous within their right by those grounds. BUT if you ever wondered what a villain was doing while the hero or, in this case, heroine lived their lives. I can tell you. Bugger all, really.

Jolie’s Maleficent literally sits on a tree and watches the young Aurora grow up. I mean the idea of her waiting to strike sounds menacing but it’s all done so light heartedly. I mean, duh, it’s Disney but the trailers (that horrible phrase) made the movie appear to be so much darker.

I mean all Jolie does is sit and fester or throw the odd prank on the pixies to keep her entertained. But this went on for 16 years? I mean, I understand that 16 was the age when Maleficent was scorned by her lover. And also if the curse said 16; why did Aurora’s father send her away for all those years?

Maleficent would have had plenty of time to find her. Especially when the pixies were right near her terrain.

Speaking of which the overly used CGI pixies (Imelda Staunton – Harry Potter, Juno Temple – The Dark Knight Rises and Lesley Manville – Vera Drake) were incredibly irritating and annoying.
Even their animated predecessors weren’t that bad. It was interesting to see Sam Riley in a normal role. Well, I say, normal. If you can call his anamorphic crow hybrid protagonist Diaval normal.

I mean for those who are still questioning why there is a spin off prequel to Sleeping Beauty, imagine what Disney could do with Maleficent and yeah you got it on the head. It is that predictable BUT also very watchable and doesn’t bore.

It was an interesting concept to provide a different dimension to a character that was just pure evil and had no redeemable features. However, the only problem this time around, Jolie’s Maleficent is not really that evil at all and you soon feel sorry for her.

BUT at the same time, it’s the same old scorned love story. Some moments surprised and near the end, I was cockily sitting there saying this is going to happen but was proved wrong. But it all ended the same way, near enough.

Sharlto Copley (District 9) was more menacing when given the screen time as the demented King Stefan. However, when given the screen time, all he was doing was sitting, grimacing and barking orders.

Elle Fanning was delightful as the dreadfully naïve Aurora. She worked well with Jolie. It was quite funny to see Jolie acting with her own daughter who played a younger Aurora for a brief scene. Jolie glaring and hissing, “I don’t like children. Go away.” Corny but nicely done.

It zips along, it’s good to look at. The cast are fantastic. The special effects are brilliant. But something about it just doesn’t sparkle, merely flickers for me.

3/5