*NEW* GHOST STORIES REVIEW *NEW*

Spookay. Horrific BUT for the right reasons?

Skeptic Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman) embarks upon a terror-filled quest when he stumbles across a long-lost file containing details of three cases of inexplicable ‘hauntings’.

As soon as the heavy breathing hit those speakers over the opening title sequence, I knew what I was in for. The movie title jumping out of the screen confirmed my fears that this will not be comfortable viewing.

Something I expect from a horror.

Nyman was a solid lead. The first act ticked over as the Ricky Gervais doppelganger exposed Martin from Benidorm (Nicholas Burns) as a fake. Joking aside, it was good watching Green expose Burn’s Derek Acorah impersonator. Complete with fake tan.

A man fixated on debunking the supernatural. That was until a mysterious cassette (Do they still make those?) is posted though Green’s door. His curiousity peaked. An invitation from his childhood icon, the renowned paranormal investigator Charles Cameron, who had (until this moment) been missing for years.

I loved how the film kept you on edge from the get go. You never really knew where it was going as Green accepted Cameron’s “challenge” to explain three “unsolvable” cases.

I have to commend the cast. I couldn’t fault them. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to take them seriously as the majority of them had featured in the comedy circuit.

Each performance suited the story. Paul Whitehouse was entertaining. Using humour to hide the pain of that dreaded night. A man plagued by something more than his own demons.

I found the interviewing process a little tedious in places as Green feigned small talk to get to the good stuff BUT as soon as Whitehouse recalled the first ghost story of this saga, I was on tenterhooks.

That feeling of unease as things went bump in the night and shadows serenaded across the fading lights. The suspense and tension perfectly executed, teasing the inevitable encounter from our spooky friends.

One thing I will never be is a night watchman. I would have bolted when the power went out. Let alone, strange noises and ghastly shapes running around the premises. Fook that!

Not that I need a cheap scare to get my kicks BUT I lost count of how many times I jolted in my seat.

Alex Lawther (The End of the F***king World) was brilliant as the erratic Simon. I just wish his ghost story wasn’t so stupid despite the fitting Evil Dead nods. It wouldn’t have worked at all if wasn’t for Lawther.

I was happy to stick with Green interviewing him. Simon’s creepy household unsettled me more than the actual “ghost story”. Especially when Green tried to introduce himself to the parents *shudders*.

It was great to see Martin Freeman in this. He played it well. Not too big for the low budget Brit flicks. The poltergeist story was a mixed bag BUT it took an unexpected turn that left me in awe.

“The brain let’s you see what you want to see”.

A proper old school horror. Tense, nail biting and freaky to boot.

However, my main issue was the pacing and the actual “unravelling” of the cases. The finale will definitely split people. I was left wanting and a little disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, it took a completely different direction BUT there were quite a few obvious clues along the way and alarm bells were ringing pretty early on when Charles Cameron was introduced into the mix.

I hoped it would focus more on Green’s crusade as he questioned beliefs and challenged the idea of the “other world”. An interesting debate with a priest had potential BUT it seemed once the ghost stories came into play, even the protagonist became an unwitting spectator as the film drew to its messy conclusion.

Right up to that point, I was wincing, dreading what lie in store for each character (Forgetting that they were the narrators of their own stories!). Completely transfixed and happy to see a low budget horror flick at my local picture house.

I can’t believe I’m saying this BUT I just wish a little more time was spent on the story then the actual scares. It was too convoluted for its own good.

If you’re in the mood for a well acted low budget jump-fest, then GS is for you. Anything else, run away!

2.5/5

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*NEW* BLACK PANTHER REVIEW *NEW*

Not in my top 3 Marvel but a good watch all the same.

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider (Michael B. Jordan) who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake.

Overhyped, maybe? Overrated . . . Now that’s pushing it.

As much as I commended Tom Holland’s scene stealing Spidey cameo in Captain America: Civil War, there was another actor I was looking forward to getting the full feature treatment.

And that was Chadwick Boseman.

He was brilliant. A charismatic presence that managed to make that seemingly silly cat costume look bad ass.

I loved how director Ryan Coogler and co introduced the team and explored T’Challa’s origins without making it seem like another origin movie. The dynamic set and a brief history of the mysterious Wakanda providing a context. No messing about.

Unfortunately not being a comic book fan, I didn’t realise the real source of T’Challa’s powers.

It skimmed over the events of Civil War for those who might not be as keen with their Marvel movies (But then why would you be watching this one?). Quickly establishing what T’Challa has been up to.

The cultural element certainly made this stand out or else BP would have been like any other Marvel film. The other world visuals were like something out of The Lion King.

Breathtaking. That GIF really doesn’t do it justice. The futuristic cityscape of Wakanda was a feast for the eyes. Rachel Morrison’s cinematography was sublime. Aided by an impressive soundtrack featuring the likes of Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd.

I really couldn’t fault the cast.

I have to commend the women in the film. Lupita Nyong’o was excellent as Nakia. An activist desperate to save the world and not fall into tradition, despite her feelings for the prince. She had great chemistry with Boseman and made that inevitable romance much more bearable.

Leticia Wright (Humans) was entertaining as the excitable techy sis. Her initial encounters with her brother were a little too cheesy BUT she won me over. Especially when she got to play with all her new toys.

The gadgets were impressive. From BP’s ultra-strong body armour to the virtual controlled car simulation that delivered some action packed set pieces.

Angela Bassett’s turn as Ramonda left little to be desired. Anyone could have played her. BUT she was nowhere near as disappointing as Forest Whitaker’s contribution to the mix. Just when I thought his supporting turn in Rogue One was bad . . . Sheesh.

Michionne from The Walking Dead was the scene stealer for me. Dania Gurira was brilliant. Her fight sequences packed a punch and her stern demeanour delivered the odd chuckle as T’Challa’s long suffering bodyguard Okoye.

The best Marvel villain?

Not for me. But Michael B. Jordan was a domineering presence (Seriously the dude was hench) and you did feel for his anguish once we learned a little more of his backstory. He even managed to make a ridiculous name like Killmonger seem menacing.

He chewed up every scene he was in. A worthy adversary to the newly appointed King.

I was disappointed at Daniel Kaluuya’s small role. I expected the Get Out star to have more of a presence. The Oscar nominee did his best BUT it just wasn’t enough.

I was more impressed with Andy Serkis. He lapped up the role with aplomb. A total maniac with his South African accent pinned down. Martin Freeman didn’t do too badly but I felt his part was a cameo that overstayed its welcome. The longer he stayed, the more awkward he stuck out.

BUT thankfully there was one inevitable gratuitous cameo that will never overstay its welcome. Hint, hint.

It was engaging, action packed and full of heart BUT by the closing act, the CGI felt as rushed as the finale. After all the build-up, things seemed to run out of steam and got a little chaotic.

From the hype, I expected a little more. Now don’t get me wrong, it was still exhilarating to watch BUT I couldn’t help but laugh when Mecha rhinos erupted into the already overcrowded battlefield. The effects got a little messy with the eclectic mix of colours clashing and things coming to a ridiculous close.

Marvel have mastered a winning formula; a perfect balance of humour, action and character and despite BP’s stumbles, it was still a solid entry and I look forward to more adventures in Wakanda.

It goes without saying (BUT I’m saying it anyway); please stay for the credits. There are TWO teasers if people are hungry for some Infinity War teasers.

3/5

NATIVITY 3: DUDE, WHERE’S MY DONKEY?

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Ho, ho, ho – horrible!

Dude, Where’s My Donkey?

No, not the long awaited sequel to Dude, Where’s My Car? (Well, I liked it). I would have preferred watching an attempt at that than endure this festive fiasco again.

From the moment the first badly mimed, badly choreographed and terribly out of sync flash mob started busting shapes, I knew I was in for it. And that was just from the adults. The kids hadn’t even started yet.

Now, I hadn’t seen the previous sequels before (and after this, I won’t be) but I thought a third installment? It must be doing something right. I can safely say that this should nail that lid to the coffin.

So what’s it all about? The pupils of St Bernadette’s and the madcap Mr Poppy (Marc Wooton) are back! When their new teacher Mr Shepherd (Martin Clunes) loses his memory as well as Archie the Donkey, it’s up to them to save the day and reunite him with his fiancée Sophie (Catherine Tate) in New York.

I’m a huge fan of Martin Clunes and knew he would be up for a laugh. He applies his Doc Martin spiel with aplomb and carries the film as much as possible. He managed to make certain gags that stunk (as bad as the donkey droppings that the numerous cast members stepped on repetitively) work.

The clothes they make him wear. He looks like a real life Christmas Where’s Wally? His singing. Yeah, he sings. My lord! The man could rival Pierce Brosnan from Mamma Mia!

Catherine Tate was incredibly flat and irritating. She seemed to be doing a really bad panto impression of her Impressions show?! Terrible. I thought having the comedienne would add something to this travesty but oh no!

Celia Imrie was delightful as the stand-in headteacher Mrs Keane or Mrs Mean. Yeah, that bad. Imrie works well with the children and to be honest, I would have been happy to see more of her.

Clearly her predecessor didn’t fancy another round. A cheeky nod to Martin Freeman and David Tennant with snow globes was a nice touch. Why on Earth did they do the other films? The money must have been good.

The Ofsted inspection subplot was completely unnecessary and didn’t go anywhere. Just an excuse for more naff tomfoolery with endless farting donkey gags and the droppings. Once was enough.

Mr Poppy, well . . . where do I begin? Marc Wooton certainly doesn’t care and fair play to the chap. BUT for the one good silly one liner he does deliver, there are a thousand million (in Poppy terms) incredibly annoying and terribly unfunny ones.

The teacher’s assistant with special . . . powers. I was exhausted with him after five minutes. It was like having a kid just watching him run and flail about. I wouldn’t trust him with my kids.

The little ‘uns might find him funny but the parents certainly won’t.

Now the kids who should be the main focus of the film seemed to be pushed to the background. Dragged along for the ride to burst out into a song or dance when the lazy and placid story line is running out of gas.

I expected more of an Outnumbered approach with the kids improvising. Nope. There was one scene that showed promise when the kids try to explain the Nativity to an amnesiac Clunes. A little girl’s answer about an angel was adorable; “An angel is someone who is half bird and half lady. AND she wears a really big white wedding dress”. More of that would have been welcome.

Now the flash mob sequences in which the children are allowed to shine are actually quite good. You can allow for some of the little tykes being out of step. The costumes and props were quite good.

What infuriated me was the fact they are forced to mime to their own singing . . . and badly. Just let them sing live!

Did I mention an amnesiac Clunes? I must have forgot to mention that (What?). He receives amnesia after being kicked in the head by a donkey. Hilarious, I hear you say? No, I didn’t think so.

The plot is terrible. I tried to switch off my critic voice in a film that’s supposed to be about Christmas and fun BUT stealing kids out of school and being looked after by a complete halfwit?

I mean, the amnesia ploy was all a bad excuse for the cast to have a Christmas tour around London and New York. The only part Debbie Isitt captured brilliantly and managed to make me a feel a little Christmas-sy and not just queasy.

Clunes had amnesia. He still had a wallet. You didn’t have to do a ridiculous flash mob dance to distract our apparently oblivious and incompetent border patrol officers so the kids could steal flight tickets and passports.

The lazy explanation from the psychologist was laughable for all the wrong reasons. Let’s flood his head with warm memories? There’s no physical injury. No physical injury bar the whopping donkey footprint on his forehead? Perr-leassse.

It seemed to me that we were watching established British TV comedy personalities trying to act like big kids in a poor panto. Why? You had the children right there. I have seen more originality and humour in my little brother’s school plays and they didn’t cost me a tenner. Not good enough.

The film is on far too long. 90 minutes was a push but 110? Behave. The length should have been swapped with its superior Christmas-sy competitor, Get Santa.

Adam Garcia played the panto villain well but his dancing was terrible. What was his profession again? A renowned dancer? Not from this. Ralf Little was brilliant as his dimwitted sidekick in a somewhat small cameo. Why didn’t he have a bigger role? He was funnier than half the cast in the 30 seconds he featured?

Jason Watkins (Trollied) was terrible. Normally a funny guy in his own right. Dull as dishwasher and irritating as hell.

Lauren Hobbs was adorable and did well as Clune’s daughter. She was probably the only memorable child in it. And that’s not the kids’ fault. I mean even the songs were highly unmemorable. And to make it worse, the kids have to sing them again AND again. It was like watching a really bad school panto!

I really laid into this one, didn’t I? I apologise but just because it’s Christmas; it doesn’t mean you can slap any old thing together and expect people to pay and see it. It was lazy, unfunny and poor. At a push, worth taking the little ‘uns if they are aged to 5 tops. Otherwise, go see Penguins of Madagascar, Paddington, anything BUT this.

I’m sure it was fun for everyone who filmed it. It’s just a shame they couldn’t convey that for everybody else.

Sorry but 1/5

I didn’t get me in the Christmas spirit but it certainly got reaching for the ones in my cupboard. Should be Dude, Where’s My Money?

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG REVIEW

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The desolation of the competition so far.

A visual cinematic feast for the eyes. Jackson unleashes a beast of a blockbuster. They’ve done it again darker and moodier than ever.

Brilliant storytelling, a great cast and breath-taking visual effects. Film of the year? Saving the best ‘til last? If we got anything to go by with the films this month then definitely.

Now I haven’t read the Hobbit (What?!). However, I was familiar with the original LOTR trilogy and found Jackson faithful in his adaptation. There does appear to be a divide in the critical reception of the Hobbit trilogy. Some found An Unexpected Journey inconsequential. Personally I enjoyed it and saw it as a great indicator of things to come.

Jackson expanded the story and enabled a bigger exploration of the mythology of the Tolkien universe on a much more extravagant scale. From speaking with fans of the book, this installment remarkably remains very faithful, complimenting the source material.

The film carries on from the last with the company being pursued by Orcs. The ring is already starting to take a hold on Bilbo and Gandalf is forced to do some investigating at Dol Guldur.

The cast are back and in fine form. Not to mention some additional characters to the ever-expanding line up and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Hitchcockian cameo from Peter Jackson. The return of Orlando Bloom as Legolas, provided an extra story line which broke up the action. His exchange with Gloin delivered a perfect in-joke for any LOTR fan.

Martin Freeman’s mannerisms and traits were spot on yet again. We were also introduced to a new character Tauriel played by the stunning Evangeline Lilly, who soon becomes embroiled in a love triangle between Kili and Legolas (Yes, Lost fans. Kate is at it again).

Others have found Jackson’s new method of 48 frames per second manic, and at times, nauseating. Undermining the animation and making it appear cartoony. I didn’t find this to be the case. If anything it helped differentiate the trilogy and bring forth a new cinematic style.

The barrel escape was a fantastically riveting and brilliantly executed sequence. This film made me regret the decision to see this in 2D. The special effects and detail on Smaug (performed with perfection by Cumberbatch) was incredible. The minutiae was superb. The golden coins falling like rain off the monster’s metallic skin.

Despite being breathtaking, funny and suspenseful, the pace did test me. And I’m not surprised at a whopping 2 hours 40 minutes. Is there a rule that every LOTR film has to be three hours or something?

I was a little disappointed that more wasn’t made out of the dwarf company. When they were allowed to shine, they delivered. I know it’s difficult with such a big cast BUT the majority of them were either pushed into the background or forgotten about altogether.

Apart from that, an astounding piece of work. I was baffled when I first heard that The Hobbit would be made into a trilogy. I remember ranting about the money hungry production companies for trying to milk a great piece of fiction from a great author. BUT now I cannot wait to see what Jackson has in store for the third and final installment.

4/5