*NEW* HACKSAW RIDGE REVIEW *NEW*

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Brutal, gripping, hard hitting.

The true story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refused to kill people, and became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.

I was a little worried at first that Garfield was going to come off as a bumbling Forrest Gump with his bashful demeanour and Southern accent BUT he delivered enough charm and charisma to win me over. A strong performance.

The first 40-odd minutes was corny but easy going enough as we followed Desmond through his childhood years right up to his enrollment.

A good portion of that time was spent on wooing the local nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer – Lights Out). It may have been a little schmaltzy BUT the pair had good chemistry and I was happy to watch.

The flashbacks flicking back and forth into Desmond’s past broke up the cheesy romance as we discovered the reasons behind his refusal to carry a firearm.

It was great to see Hugo Weaving as Doss’ embittered drunken vet father. He played it with aplomb. A tormented man who had already “died” with his men in the Great War.

His survival nothing more than a curse. Punishing himself and his family. I was surprised at his reaction when he discovered that his two sons had enlisted.

The boot camp training montage was a little predictable. Especially when Doss had to compete with the macho hot head Smitty Ryker (Luke Bracey – Point Break).

BUT it still hit home as Desmond fought against the military hierarchy. Reserving his right to serve as a medic:

“No less danger, just . . . while everybody else is taking life, I’m going to be saving it. With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me to wanna put a little bit of it back together”.

I wasn’t sure whether Vince Vaughn would cut it as Sergeant Howell. I was hoping this role would be a change from his usual spiel.

BUT his Wedding Crashers style drill call and endless shouting was hit and miss. It was a little too OTT for my liking as he gave the privates nicknames. However, there were a couple of clever one liners.

BUT as Doss’ struggle worsened, Howell soon won me over as he realised the stubborn Virginian wasn’t going to back down. Fighting for his beliefs.

Sam Worthington (Avatar) was brilliant as the callous Captain Glover. Embarrassed to have a “conscientious objector” in his ranks. Ordering Howell to force the boy’s resignation.

Doss’ treatment was shocking. Beaten until he was black and blue by members of his own infantry. Pushed to the very edge. He was even denied a day pass to attend his own wedding. Unbelievable.

It went right up to a military tribunal and even during the first attack on Hacksaw, troops were still weary of the medic. The second half of the film was something to behold. A true act of honour and dedication.

I had no doubt on ol’ Blue Eyes taking the helm. We had already seen a return to form with his stellar turn in Blood Father and this latest entry from the Braveheart and We Were Soldiers director was a step in the right direction.

The violence was ridiculous. Gibson definitely didn’t hold back the punches. It was visceral, gory and bloody as hell. He really showed the true extent of what war can do to a soldier.

The only problem with all the CGI (especially with the flamethrower attacks) was that it came off like something out of Starship Troopers! And when Doss kicked that grenade like a football, I couldn’t help but tut. Hollywood had to put their stamp on it somewhere.

“Just give me one more”

I was on tenterhooks right up to the emotional and fitting tribute. As every one else had climbed back down off the ridge, Doss stayed to tend to the wounded.

Covering up the injured from the lurking Japanese. Evading capture and sniper fire. Discovering their hidden trenches.

Tense, gripping. I was completely transfixed as this young man, with no firearm, saved 70 soldiers who were already deemed lost by their superior officers.

He even tried to save several Japanese officers who didn’t quite make the journey back to the medical tent.

Despite a 139 minute running time, the pace didn’t test. Garfield impressed yet again, giving one of his best performances to date.

It was nail biting and enthralling. That final act when Glover apologizes to the crazy Virginian was heartbreaking.

The real life interviews and footage in the closing credits really brought it home.

A compelling drama as one man defied the odds and fought for what was right.

While not the greatest war film, Hacksaw is still worthy of your attention.

4/5

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*NEW* SPLIT REVIEW *NEW*

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A return to form from the maestro who brought us The Sixth Sense?

Or another dud to add the ever-growing backlog from that guy who gave us The Happening?

In a nutshell, meh.

BUT one thing can be agreed, James McAvoy was excellent.

Three girls are kidnapped by a man diagnosed with 23 distinct personalities. They must escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.

I think it’s fair to say that M. Night Shyamalan’s movie have . . . split audiences. Ba-dum-tssh. I read that somewhere and had to put it.

I’ve always loved the premises BUT his execution? Well . . .

Desperate to be the next modern Hitchcock (The opening title sequence for Split resembled something out of Psycho!)

His big “twists” and mad endings have failed to impress of late; The Visit (Laughable), After Earth (Jaden Smith, say no more!), The Lady in the Water (Apart from that breaking of the 4th wall moment, woeful) and The Happening . . .

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How could I forget?!

What do you mean, where’s Signs and The Village? I *shuffles collar* actually enjoyed those movies. Yes, I know. Aliens attack Earth and their sole weakness is water. I know! BUT Mel Gibson and Johnny Cash, man!

I digress. I was actually excited by all the trailers to see Shyamalan’s latest thriller and I didn’t mind it. It was alright BUT it just didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

The opening didn’t mess about. An air of unease established straight from the get go as McAvoy’s “Dennis” made his introduction to the unsuspecting trio.

Funny that I was praising Anya Taylor-Joy in another mediocre movie (Morgan). She played the withdrawn but resourceful Casey well.

I didn’t expect to see Grace from Skins (Jessica Sula) in the troubled party either.

Their initial captivity felt like something from Kiss the Girls with a hint of Misery. 

The first half hour set a slow burning atmospheric thriller with all sorts of questions flying around. 

Every time I could feel my patience wading, McAvoy’s Dennis would introduce another personality.

McAvoy continues to impress yet again. I don’t think I would have been half as interested if he wasn’t at the helm. 

He stole the show with everybody else playing second fiddle.

And that was part of the problem, every time the action was taken away from him, I lost interest.

Betty Buckley (Carrie) didn’t do a bad turn as Dr Fletcher, the therapist desperate to help the troubled mad man. Fighting for “their” cause. Playing a very dangerous game. 

There were genuine moments where I felt tense. Especially when she worked out that she wasn’t talking to the “right person”.

The girls played their parts well and were quite resilient.

I expected more cliched horror movie gaffs with three teenage girls at the centre of the chaos BUT they were fairly strong characters. Not bad, Mr Shyamalan.

BUT one thing that bugged me the most was the film’s actual premise. 23 personalities?

All those trailers, billboards, posters. 23 personalities. Did we actually get 23 personalities?

*POSSIBLE SPOILER*

For the majority of the film, we only had 4. Great performance from Professor X but a measly number that increased to maybe 7 by the end? Come on now.

It was great how with a twitch in the face and a burrow of the brow; McAvoy’s infantile nine year old Hedwig could transform into the meticulous and obsessive compulsive Dennis. 

His Patricia could easily have bordered on a parody of Mrs Doubtfire.

Thankfully, it didn’t.

BUT this could have been done in 90 minutes and been better for it. 

The pacing hammered the piece for me and the final act dragged.

There was so many meandering flashbacks into Casey’s past, I kept wondering what the relevance of them were? 

They killed the tension and annoyed the hell out of me.

All the talk of a Beast. This new and vicious 24th personality. Those crazy descriptions and the big reveal, the “What a twist” moment didn’t quite deliver.

It was certainly creepy and unsettling with Shyamalan teasing the die hards BUT it didn’t quite pan out the way I hoped.

Different. Watchable. BUT thriller of the year? Meh.

Certainly worth a view for one stellar performance from the super Scot.

A return of sorts. Not his best. BUT certainly NOT his worst by a country mile.

3/5 (Just)

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD REVIEW

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Mad doesn’t even come close.

Feel the fury of the merciless car chases. The Road Warrior is back. But badder and better?

In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max (Tom Hardy), a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

George Miller brings his Road Warrior to the 21st Century. Rebooted, rejuvenated and relentless.

Hardy was the perfect choice. On paper. I felt his performance was a little shaky. His interpretation was a little disjointed. I’m not sure whether it was down to Miller’s direction or what?

Hardy seemed too mechanical. He barely said a word. Which wasn’t a problem but when he spoke, it was drivel. I preferred Mel Gibson. He may have played the mystery man but he did have some charm and charisma.

It didn’t help that Hardy had that metal mask on his face for the first 45 minutes. Badass, yes! BUT he looked like a post-apocalyptic Bane. He must be born into these roles 😉

John Seale’s cinematography was something else. Absolutely breathtaking. He really brought Miller’s dream apocalypse to life. Miller made full use of that mega million budget to make his future apocalyptic wasteland.

It’s great watching the original Mad Max trilogy before hand. Fans will know that it was all building up to this. I was still debating whether it was a reboot or a sequel.

If you are unfamiliar with the original films then it isn’t essential at all. But for MM fans, the car was there? So was it a reboot? The voices and the vision of the child asking Max to save them felt like a reference to the trilogy? So a sequel?

Either way, not a MUST!

The set pieces were intense. I was impressed by what Miller had done with the original trilogy. Proper cars, proper chases. For the majority of the action, it was still in that vein BUT on a biblical scale.

However, as with all blockbusters CGI inevitably makes an appearance. I only saw this in 2D. You could tell what bits would have been in 3D and to be honest, I’m a little miffed that I missed my chance.

BUT it also made everything look way too cartoony. The CGI in the sandstorm sequence was too much and killed the intensity of the chase. It was worse than the dated props and dummies of the 80s.

The Mad Max franchise may have been starting to show its age and what do you expect after 30 years?! It was always strange. I loved the nihilistic undertones. Dark, brooding, haunting with the right level of silliness.

Miller just cranks it up to 11 and revs the engines for sheer balls craziness. From the off, it’s fast, frantic and violent. I was hooked. Merely because it doesn’t give you a chance to take in all the quick-cut editing and sweeping shots.

Hugh Keays-Byrne was brilliant as the demented Immortan Joe. The patriarchal leader that rules all. Controlling the water supply. Turning it on at small intervals to watch the slaves fight for thirst.

And of course, in typical Mad Max fashion, he sends tankards out on quests to seek . . . that most precious of substances, gasoline!

Nicholas Hoult was superb as Nux. The ailing obedient servant hell bent on earning Immortan Joe’s respect. He really has excelled from About A Boy and Skins. Delivering another scene stealing performance.

There were a couple of angles that did intrigue me. The idea that this strange colony abduct people from the road and use them as blood bags was messed up. The weird mythology that Immortan Joe enforced about Valhalla was laughable.

I felt like I was on drugs watching the thing. His servants getting pumped before a gasoline siege by spraying some weird chrome stuff over their mouths while praying to the Gods of V8? What a lovel- strange film! And that dude with the guitar? WTF?! To remind you. Un pic below:

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Que?

I know the film has sparked debates with its feminist context. I merely review films but the idea of women against the patriarchy certainly made this installment stand out a little more. And let’s be honest Mad Max fans, it had been heading that way.

Let’s not forget Tina Turner’s surprising turn in Mad Max: Beyond The Thunderdome and maybe forget the Hook Neverland kids vibe in the last part.

If anyone could play a strong female defying the odds and breaking free, I couldn’t think of anybody better than Charlize Theron. She was very good as Furiosa. Immortan Joe’s most valued servant. Or so he thought.

My main issue was that the supporting ladies had such unmemorable characters. Zoe Kravitz was very weak. I think the only one that stood out was Rosie Huntington-Whitely (No, not because she’s the model. Although . . . NO! Focus) BUT because she was the only one who had a teeny tiny piece of back story to support the rather weak story line.

There were a few twists along the way. Miller may have lost it with the OTT demented silliness BUT he still wasn’t afraid to shake things up when the pace seemed to lumber. And unfortunately, it did in parts.

For MM fans, I felt that Fury Road was a revamped Mad Max 2. One of the best installments in my opinion. Immortan Joe felt like he had been torn from the same cloth of Lord Humungus. He even had a stupid and memorable mask as well!

The musical score by Junkie XL was incredible. I don’t normally commend movie soundtracks but it really made the chases that much more dramatic and engaging. Exhilarating and frantic. Very much like the movie.

I just wish there were more memorable supporting characters. The endless visions, hallucinations and flashbacks that Max experienced were really annoying. The more they popped up with that annoying kid, the more I could feel my patience wading.

Max only really got to shine in the last 20 minutes. I’m sure that was the point but Max was always the one you were routing for. The underdog. This time, you have Furiosa. Max just seemed so bland. He got lost in the mix. BUT how could he not with this demented wasteland?

Mad. Not at all. I was hooked. The action was intense. BUT Miller could tone down the craziness and crank up some plot and characters for the next post-apocalyptic western. Maybe.

3/5

THE EXPENDABLES 3 REVIEW

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They’re back. The Dad’s Army of has been action heroes return for a third and possibly final adventure with ridiculous OTT action sequences, hammy dialogue and cheesy banter.

In all fairness, I went in fearing the worst but it wasn’t all that bad. Hardly great BUT in terms of cheesy entertainment, surprisingly watchable. The only downfall was Stallone’s feeble attempt at injecting new faces to prolong this hardly must see franchise with cliched, bland newbies that fail to have the reputation to pull in interest or (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) the acting ability to carry it.

The first hour was watchable, pacey and chugged along well. The opening prison train sequence was OTT, cheesy but fun and there’s plenty of it in this.

The return of Wesley Snipes and Mel Gibson to the big screen was a sight to see. Despite their previous misdemeanours, both showed why they still know how to steal the show. Snipes was on fine form . . . to begin with.

A great introduction in which Stallone lectures him on his incarceration. Cue Statham asking what he was in for. I thought in my head, “It would be great if he said a tax joke” and before I know it, bam! Tax evasion. I think that’s what helped the hammy dialogue, the banter, the little pops at each other.

The number of digs at Stallone for his speech. Even daring enough to pop a stroke gag. All in reasonably good taste. Snipes seemed to take over Terry Crews’ role which I found highly strange. Can there not be two black guys? We have one. Don’t need another, apparently.

Crews got one moment to shine involving a chain gun before getting injured or something surprisingly weak for this macho filled mess of a blockbuster. To be honest, it was to do with contractual obligations more than anything. Still, his presence was missed.

The camaraderie among the Expendables was decent. All the old boys having a laugh and not giving a sh- blind bit of notice. And why should they? However, the middle act tested me with lulling generic clichéd one liners and poses. Ol’ Swarnie was not in it enough and when he was first introduced, his lines were bland and highly unmemorable and this is Swarnie, for crying out loud.

The story line went predictable as hell with Stallone confronting an old foe and former Expendable in the form of old Gibbo. Cue a self-deprecating suicide mission with Stallone pushing away the old gang and bringing new faces (in the form of ex-mixed martial arts fighters Ronda Rousey and Victor Ortiz and that dude from Twilight, Kellan Lutz) to tackle William Wallace.

It took a while for Gibson to shine. Once he gets to confront and endure the inaudible screaming of Stallone (Seriously I could not understand a word that man was saying. More so than usual), he gets to deliver malice to some cliched lines.

And that’s the thing that all the oldies prove. They may lack the vigour and pace of their younger counterparts (I mean, come on, they are in their SIXTIES) but their acting and charisma prove why they are still the big dogs and these young pups still have a lot to learn. They may look tough and do their own stunts but when it comes to acting. Generic face pulling and grimaces is just not good. Yes, you can say that for Stallone but the guy is an icon. These young ‘uns . . . Pfft.

The inevitable out with the old, in with the new I don’t need you spiel was always going to end the same way. It was unnecessary and so predictable with the oldies soon being called in again. It did make me laugh when the star studded line up appeared. Dolph (The Punisher/Drago) Lundgren, Arnold (Get to the Chopper!) Schwarzenegger, Harrison (Get Off My Plane!) Ford, Mel (Braveheart) Gibson, Wesley (Blade/Demolition Man) Snipes and . . . Kelsey Grammer.

Frasier (I’m listening) Crane. What he’s going to do? Step on a rake and mutter away like Sideshow Bob? Anyway, I digress. In all fairness, Grammer was actually pretty good in the small part he played. Some friendly banter with Rocky as they pick the next group of recruits.

Harrison Ford was actually pretty good. Great to see he still has a sense of humour and lighten up. He plays the hard ass role to perfection and still has that sinister conviction of Air Force One; even if his lines don’t make sense. Trust me there’s a line about somebody messing it up and him wearing it that had me scratching my head. Stallone’s writing was never brilliant. But let’s not forget he did Rocky (however, he also did Rocky 4 and 5 etc).

The Stath’s acting was surprisingly wooden. Disappointing. Antonio Banderas was pretty much doing a live action impersonation of Puss in Boots. His intro said it all with Stallone Shrek (What?) and Grammer his donkey.

The action pieces are pretty good. There are moments where it got a bit too erratic and manic that the shaky camera work struggles to keep up and so do you. An issue I had with the first Expendables movie.

It gets OTT, ridiculous and corny as hell but the explosive finale allowed for all cheesy one liners with Swarnie getting to throw as many Chopper references as you could want.

All in all, if you’re looking for a big dumb shoot em up with some old 80s and 90s action heroes and some bang for your buck then give it a go.

Otherwise, move along folks! I didn’t really rate the first film. I thought it was okay. The second I still haven’t seen. This one was not bad. A guilty pleasure.

2.5/5 for me