*NEW* NOCTURNAL ANIMALS REVIEW *NEW*

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Strange, hypnotic, tense, nail biting, different. Certainly one for the books.

An art gallery owner (Amy Adams) is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel (Jake Gyllenhaal), a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

I hadn’t even sat down and got comfortable before I was wondering what the hell I was getting myself into.

I never like to read too much about a film. All I had to go by was the hype. The endless promotion and tweets. I had to seek it out. The eye popping opening sequence certainly grabbed my attention as a bunch of morbidly obese elderly naked women gyrated and flaunted their money makers across the giant silver screen.

I kid you not. I have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed with the first 15 minutes BUT director Tom Ford’s (A Single Man) hypnotic visual style (aided by Seamus McGarvey’s beautiful cinematography) and Adam’s (Arrival) presence kept me going.

Abel Korzeniowski’s musical score was something else. Perfectly balanced against the haunting backdrops.

It was only when Susan (Adams) received a mysterious manuscript from her ex husband that my interest was peaked. A dual narrative set with Susan’s (Adams) cynical lifestyle and unhappy marriage to Hutton (Armie Hammer – The Man from U.N.C.L.E) running alongside Edward’s (Gyllenhaal – Demolition) story.

Gyllenhaal was superb. He really excelled in playing both the author and his fictional counterpart Tony. Nightcrawler certainly marked a turning point in ol’ Darko’s impressive career and he delivered yet another sterling performance. Oscar?

The film flicked back and forth from Adams’ past to Tony’s fictional struggle. The only problem was that I was found myself more interested with the fictional world than the real one. I’m sure that was supposed to be the point BUT it was a little frustrating watching the talented Ms Adams become increasingly more passive. A mere spectator in her own narrative.

The cut backs conveniently appeared at the tensest moments of Tony’s traumatic journey in the desert as his family crossed paths with some unsavoury characters.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) was superb as the demonic Ray. A complete change of role for him. A revolting creature lurking in the darkness. Dare I say, a nocturnal animal waiting to strike. I really detested him. A great performance.

The suspense had me on tenterhooks as the family feared for their lives. BUT every time we cut back to Susan dealing with her empty and frustrated life, I was urging the film to get back to Tony.

The questions piling up. Why is Susan so captivated with this story? Did this happen to her? Is this why she is no longer with Edward?

The supporting cast were impeccable. Michael Shannon (Midnight Special) was equally good as Bobby. The cop with nothing to lose. Ready to do anything to help Tony get justice. Made a change to see him play something less sinister.

I was a little disappointed at the lack of Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon) and Anne Riseborough (Birdman). Reduced to passing cameos as Susan’s gallery friends. Shame. Laura Linney (Mystic River) made more of an impression in her minute role as Susan’s controlling mother.

Despite that bizarre opener, I was hooked to the very end as you began to peel beneath the layers and realize that there is more than meets the eye. Gyllenhaal and Adams had good chemistry as we finally delved into Edward and Susan’s relationship.

My only qualm on first watch was the ending. It was a little abrupt and left me baffled. I actually looked around the cinema, wondering “Did I miss something?”. Perplexed, I went to forums and discussed heavily on Twitter about the ambiguous finale.

BUT for the first time in a while, I was left talking about a film for days. It actually made me have to think. I actually wanted to watch it again. An impressive feat in itself. Especially if you look back on my last months review backlog.

It was suspenseful, engaging and brilliantly acted. There was even a moment that took me completely off guard and made quite a few people jump in the screen. One chap actually yelped in surprise (No, not me!)

If you’re in the mood for something a little different to the norm, I would heavily recommend.

4/5 (Just)

*NEW* THE 5TH WAVE REVIEW *NEW*

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Corny, dull, laughable. Another Hunger Games inspired mess floods the silver screen.

Four waves of increasingly deadly alien attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother (Zackary Arthur).

The premise seemed a little hokey BUT with Hit Girl at the helm, I thought this could be watchable. Oh how wrong I was. The first half hour wasn’t too bad and zipped along and after a strong and tense opener, my hopes were still quite high. BUT it just went downhill from there.

The quick cliched set up through flashbacks did the job. The inevitable high school guff was a little dull BUT was quickly skimmed through. Thankfully. Watching Chloe loving life, soccer and boys. Awww. Yuck. That was until the end of the world.

The four waves of attack were quite frantic and pacey. The CGI wasn’t too bad either as tsunamis consumed cities and the aliens made their tacky Independence Day introduction. The virus outbreak through strains of bird flu was an interesting prospect that was breezed over. Things looked to pick up when the aliens began to control the remaining survivors. Looked being the primary word.

Moretz did the best with her role BUT the cliched high school girl spiel can only be done so many times. She may have got away with it in If I Stay BUT it didn’t work this time around. Her droll diary entries put me into a mild coma.

Ron Livingston (Office Space) and Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy) were wasted as Chloe’s parents. They did their best BUT anyone could have played them. It didn’t help after all the promise of alien attacks, we were subjected to a mindless romance subplot that went nowhere.

Alex Roe played the charismatic stranger Evan Walker well. BUT the inevitable blossoming romance was nauseating. I was bored. I wasn’t interested. It might have worked better if it wasn’t so corny or laughable. The endless staring and cheesy exchanges was too much. A scene in which Evan is cleansing himself in the lake with his shirt off was hysterical. Come on.

I was more intrigued with the idea of kids being recruited as soldiers to fight off the enemy. A daunting prospect with children being the only ones able to detect who are being controlled by the aliens. It wasn’t explored enough or used to its full potential.

A shame considering Maria Bello (Coyote Ugly) and Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) were the leading authorities. Bello made a more memorable impression as the sinister sergeant than Schreiber. He was reduced to standing in a command centre and looking menacing. The guy can act. Let him. Dreadful.

Instead we had another dull subplot with Chloe’s high school flame Ben or Zombie (Nick Robinson – Jurassic World) endure military training. Robinson was a likeable lead BUT the cliched military montages and his clashes with Maika Monroe’s (It Follows) bratty army reject just slowed this piece down to a snail’s pace.

The twists, if you could call them that, were terrible. You could see them coming a mile off. This felt like another regurgitation of Hunger Games and Divergent with much weaker results. I couldn’t understand why this received a 15 rating. It wasn’t that violent or dark enough.

We know that Moretz can play a strong female lead. So why did we have a whiny, pining teenage girl? She only really got to step up in the final 20 minutes as she attempted to rescue her brother. A case of too little, too late for me. Rushing for a frantic finale that left everything open.

For those familiar with Rick Yancey’s novel, you already know that there’s more to come. BUT if the next offering is going to be anything like this feeble effort, then the plans for a franchise might be end quicker than the aliens’ plans for Earth.

And I thought The Host was a chore. An adaptation that earned no sequels. The endless teen bestseller adaptations is getting silly. Retreading and replicating the same old spiel. Give us something different. Original if possible.

Weak characters, a laughable story and a cliched premise makes this one to forget.

2/5

THE EQUALIZER REVIEW

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Denzel + Hit Girl = a dull long winded action flick. Redeemed by a few moments of carnage.

The Equalizer or Man on Fire 2 (if Creasy chose retirement and decided to work in a DIY store) proved one thing. That Denzel Washington is still very much the man.

He provides yet another powerhouse performance proving why he is one of the best actors going. But I fear he may have taken too much on with this one.  Normally you can bank on Washington to carry films that (on paper) may be a little lacklustre but this really did test me.

Washington’s presence certainly makes this just about watchable but it’s still a disappointing mess reprieved by two good performances and some moments of mayhem.

An agonizing coma-inducing opening did not help matters. We get an idea of Washington’s life in a few shots that should have taken up a couple of minutes not twenty. It meandered along as Washington keeps up appearances blending in and trying to maintain a peaceful (and incredibly boring) life.

It was incredibly clichéd and predictable as Washington banters with the staff. That and a tedious subplot in which he helps his best friend Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) train for his security guard exam. However, his little improvised dance routine is one I will be busting out the next time I hit the town.

Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass) and Washington worked well together. You felt for her character instantly but the constant café meetings to build up a relationship that was clearly established just further slackened things.

I was waiting for the inevitable incident that would activate Washington to take action. An incident that would put Moretz out of action until the closing minutes when she pops back up as a mere afterthought. It’s surprising to see how grown up she has become but anyone could have played her. Anyhoo . . . By the 45 minute marker. FINALLY things got a little bit more interesting with Washington cracking skulls, taking names and dispensing B-movie one liners.

To be honest, every time he glared and tortured someone, I saw Creasy. The frenetic fist-fighting was a feast for any action junkie. The only problem is that the disposing of unmemorable henchmen was dealt with too quickly.

One niggle that irritated me through this. The Equalizer’s thing was his timing. In one particular scene, he threatens to dispose of the East (Or West. Not relevant) Coast Russian mafia in 16 seconds. Washington does his business in a bloody and incredibly violent fashion. BUT in . . . 30 seconds?

This happens constantly. He says 90 seconds to one person and takes five minutes instead. Is Washington getting too old for this shit? I may not have seen the famous TV series starring Edward Woodward (The Wicker Man) but messing up one of his hallmarks does not bode well.

The final 20 minutes made up for a film that desperately wanted to be cooler than it was. The DIY Die Hard sequence offered everything I expected throughout the film . . . NOT just for the ending. I am happy to wait for the violence and destruction.

BUT only if there is enough story or something going on that’s worth filling in that time. 132 minutes is far too long. The action that was delivered was fast and furious. Washington can most definitely still play the hardened action movie veteran.

Antoine Fuqua may have reunited with Washington for their second outing but Training Day, this ain’t. All the other supporting characters were so unmemorable and clichéd that it frustrated me. All except for Marton Csokas (XXX)

He was absolutely brilliant. A worthy adversary to Washington’s peace-keeping protagonist. His lines may have been hammy in parts but Csokas’ expressions and dead pan delivery made him a villain to remember. His presence in every scene created tension and suspense. Something that was much needed.

After commending David Arbour (End of Watch) for his performance in A Walk Among The Tombstones, I found his character in this very dull, passive and generally unnecessary. David Meunier (Justified) made a more memorable turn in just one scene.

I was annoyed that we barely scraped the surface of McCall (Washington)’s past and the only taster we get is a boring encounter with Melissa Leo telling us what we already knew. And Bill Pullman? Remember him? President of America in Independence Day (Or the dad in Casper). A mere chess playing cameo? Terrible.

Washington makes it rain with quality acting, charisma and some fist-fighting, blood curdling violence. Csokas offers a villain that makes up for the lumbering pace. However, all it made me want to do is watch Man on Fire.

It got there in the end but boy, oh boy. If the credits suggested another one in the pipeline, get a better storyline. Or least some more action. Give it a go but me . . . I’m going to get Man on Fire out of the DVD cupboard.

2.5/5 for me.

IF I STAY REVIEW

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I should have stayed at home is . . . what I thought I would be saying after watching this. But surprisingly this . . . uh . . . surprised me.

The corny coma chick flick meets the cantankerous cynic of a critic and for all my griping (which there may be a smidgeon), there is still beneath its cheesy surface; an easygoing and brilliantly acted drama. I can feel the man points dropping off but here we go.

So what’s it all about? Life changes in an instant for young Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) after a car accident puts her in a coma. During an out-of-body experience, she must decide whether to wake up and live a life far different than she had imagined.

From the trailers and weepy teenage girls with their tissue boxes at the ready, I feared an incredibly schmaltzy, corny OTT teen love story. To an extent, it is. But I was proven wrong before with The Fault In Our Stars. Chloe Grace Moretz has matured from Hit Girl and impresses yet again, proving that she can handle the lead role.

The cast are perfectly chosen. Mirielle Enos (The Killing USA) and Joshua Leonard (Men Of Honor) play the hard rock junkie super cool parents fantastically to Moretz’s inevitably stuffy, uptight cello playing Mia. That is until she meets Jamie Blackley (Snow White and the Huntsman)’s charismatic Adam and the rest is . . . the movie of love, loss and classical music.

Blackley and Moretz have fantastic chemistry together and they really do make the characters stand out. I actually found myself caring for the little love birds not praying for their demise. Of course, they go through the ups and downs; the why me when you’re so cool and I’m so geeky spiel. The tests of college and flying the coop. Check, check, check. That is until the accident. That happens early on and the story flashes back and forth.

To be honest, the coma angle of the story didn’t really do much for me. The flicking back and forth just disrupted what was an easy going and watchable boy meets girl love story. It was just CGM wandering around aimlessly bar a few twists (which were ruined in the trailers). The last 15 minutes or so in which CGM finally stands still and listens to her friends and family as they prepare themselves for the worst case scenario, finally justifies itself by allowing for some endearing scenes (and yes everyone was crying. Apart from me, obviously).

Without spoiling too much, I couldn’t help but question the relevance of Aisha Hinds’ (Under the Dome) Nurse Ramirez preaching motivational speeches to a comatose patient. Ridiculously corny. Plus was she a spirit? As no one seemed to be paying attention to her too. Pointless in my opinion. Liano Liberto plays Mia’s best friend well and Stacey Keach delivers an emotionally sobering performance as Mia’s grief stricken grandfather.

The cello playing by whoever was CGM’s stand in was impeccable and the amount of classical music that was played in this. Unexpected but brilliant. Made a change to the usual indie/pop/teen soundtrack these films are normally flogging. The ending is a bit abrupt. It’s all built up and ponders the question which the film heavily suggests and then just ends.

The problem with these sort of coma pics; there are only ever two outcomes which makes it all a little predictable without divulging too much.

I was surprised at how quick this film disappeared from my cinema. It’s not without its imperfections but I have seen a lot worse. If it is still lingering around, give it a go. It won’t win merits for originality but cheesy, easy going, watchable guff all the same.

2.5/5 for me (might change it to a 3) depending on the next influx of weepies which there inevitably will be.

GODZILLA REVIEW

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Godzilla? God help us. I really wanted this to work but yet again another reboot fails to hit the mark by it’s hero’s gargantuan tail. A drawn out, plot holed mess that if not for a promising 15 minute finale would have been a complete fossil. This poor piece of dino doodoo goes out with a yawn than a ROAR!

When I heard that Gareth Edwards, the man who gave us the low budgeted apocalyptic cult creature feature Monsters, had been green lit to direct the Godzilla reboot, I was excited. Monsters gave us a taster of his visual brilliance. Granted the story was nothing new but give him the right material and a bigger budget and Godzilla could be something. It is such a shame that I report that even with an impressive cast, this film will sink and should stay in the underwater prison that kept Godzilla away for most of the movie (You read that right).

Bryan Cranston does his best to make the technical mumbo jumbo sound interesting and plausible. Hell, the guy even speaks Japanese. But you can’t help but feel it’s just Hal from Malcolm in the Middle as an engineer. Especially when he is running, panting, and screaming quite high pitched. It’s all unintentionally hilarious. I mean it was always going to be hard for Cranston to find a suitable follow up project after the excellent Breaking Bad.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I actually preferred it’s ridiculously corny and OTT 1998 blockbuster brother, Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla. It deliberately poked fun at the hokey concept while this takes itself far too seriously (which wasn’t a problem to begin with. I mean if Christopher Nolan can do it, why not?). It just highlights the number of plot holes in the loose story line to give the humans something to do. Look I don’t care about the concept of a giant dinosaur causing havoc on the world’s major landmarks. But the problem when you have giant dinosaurs or robots (I’m looking at you, Transformers) that can survive nuclear bombs (pretty much the biggest weapon we can launch at the buggers), the only thing the human race can do as Ken Wantanabe rightly says, “Let them fight.”

Edwards obviously intended to wet our whistles, stalling the inevitable appearance of the gargantuan giant. I’m fine with that but not when we are left with naff, generic character regurgitating scientific mumbo jumbo that bores the living stuffing out of you. I mean a beautifully shot scientific expedition with Ken Wantanabe (The Last Samurai/Batman Begins) and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) that skims across The Philippines and Japan teases us with a dino skeleton here, a trail of destruction there but as you’re waiting for the hero, you realise there is no point in the scientist’s journey as it makes no sense and is completely necessary. That big budget being put to use. Alexandre Desplat’s score is suspenseful and pacey but there isn’t much suspense or tension to keep you hooked.

I mean the opening sequence with the redacted 1950s footage was a complete rip off of the Emmerich rehash. I won’t spoil too much. That being said, there wasn’t much to spoil. This was advertised all wrong. The main creatures that we are stuck following are mutated parasites, well giant cockroach things that feed off radiation and it’s up to good ol’ Zilla to sort them out. At a two hour running time, there just isn’t enough going on. Every time we see those cockroach things, we get two minutes of carnage then they fly off to another expensive location for more blockbuster budget spending. When Godzilla finally appears, the animation and visual effects are impeccable, from his expressions to his incredibly loud roar. Seriously I nearly went deaf in the cinema.

But every time he looks like he’s going to do something. The camera cuts away or flashes to the aftermath. Screw that, I want to see it! Instead we get a rather hench looking army chughead Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) sleepwalking through his lines as he suffers daddy issues with his paranoid skeptic of a father, Mr Bryan Cranston. Cranston’s angry scientist was the only thing worth watching in between the creatures popping up as if to say, “We will be fighting . . . eventually”. An unexpected twist got my attention, only to leave it open for more . . . monotonous drivel that went nowhere. Wantanabe looking white as a sheet petrified of Godzilla just becomes a parody in itself. The talented David Straitharn (The Bourne Ultimatum/Alphas) plays a stocky grunting general that asks the main question every film goer is thinking, “Where’s Godzilla?”. A character that has spawned numerous movies and hit movie history is left making a short 15 minute appearance for the “big finale”.

The little details soon irritate. When you first see the tip of his spine arise out of the ocean like something out of Jaws, a smile cracks but after half an hour, you end up screaming (quite ironically), “Get out of the water!”. When Big G gets to fight, the special effects are brilliant. But I can’t help feel that it’s a little too dark (in the visual sense, literally) to see what’s going on.

The fighting does appeared laboured and mechanical but that’s where the fun came from the classics. The special effects do nothing to spoil that. In fact they improve it. I wouldn’t waste your money on 3D, apart from the opening, where smoke and ash rains out the screen, everything else is just a little more prominent but not a massive investment.

The HALO jumping sequence was decent, especially when it flicked to the first person angle, in which we see the soldiers dive out of the plane into the ensuing fog and debris left by Godzilla and co. However, when you think back, they didn’t need to do it. Seriously.

Unfortunately, before people realise the mess that this film is, it will have already made its money and a sequel has already been green lit. But this offering has not heightened my excitement to fish out the next one. Edwards excels at the effects yet again but the love of God, give us some characters we care about.

It doesn’t offer anything for the leading ladies at all. I mean Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) had such a pointless part, anyone could have played her. The same can be said for the beautiful Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy remake), who was left either staring blankly, screaming or waiting on the phone. A shame. This had all the potential to start the blockbuster season with a BANG but only went with a BOO! Let’s hope X Men or Transformers can reward our patience. 2/5 for me.

As a side note, how cool would it have been if Heisenberg squares up to Godzilla and screams, “SAY MY NAME!”. To which Godzilla roars in subtitles, “HEISENBERG”. Then skulks away. “THIS IS MY TERRITORY!”. Maybe it will be in The Director’s Cut?!

Currently ranks #117 out of 174!