THE LONGEST RIDE REVIEW

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It really was the longest ride.

Easygoing enough but memorable? Another Nicholas Sparks adaptation hits the silver screen and it’s everything you could expect.

Schmaltzy, cliched, predictable and far too bloomin’ long!

After an automobile crash, the lives of a young couple intertwine with a much older man (Alan Alda), as he reflects back on a past love.

As you might not have gathered, these sort of films are not my cup of tea. They will always be corny and cringe-inducing BUT I’m happy to keep my thoughts to myself if the characters are interesting enough. Or the story.

Okay, the characters were not that interesting. Or the story. BUT the cast played their parts very well.

Scott Eastwood (Yes, the son of the legend of all legends Clint Eastwood) will soon be in the scopes of young teen girls everywhere. And for the lads . . . Britt Robertson.

I’m kidding. I was happy to see Robertson take on a leading role. She even managed NOT to annoy the hell out of me. Her turn in Tomorrowland left me anxious. I didn’t think she would be strong enough. BUT she excelled in this. All aided by some cracking chemistry with Eastwood.

I cannot believe how much he looks like his old man in his hey day. Crazy.

Robertson and Eastwood did their best with the ambitious career-minded college girl meets rugged daredevil rodeo cowboy love story. It really is as predictable as you could imagine. Not to say there weren’t moments to be enjoyed. When the leads were allowed to break free from the bland rom drom checklist, they were brilliant.

BUT their romance was always going to play second fiddle to the other (and slightly more interesting) love story of Ira and Ruth. A car crash and one befuddled (and incredibly old) Alan Alda later and we are thrust back to the 1940s.

Alan Alda (M*A*S*H) was brilliant. Bringing a much needed sincerity to the miserable pensioner Ira. A man who lost his love. It isn’t long before a slow burning but charming journey is set. Robertson begins to read all the letters that Ira wrote to his wife over the years.

Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) and Oona Chaplin (Game of Thrones) were fantastic together. Chaplin played the vibrant and passionate Ruth to perfection. The woman that would change the life of a shy store clerk for the rest of his life. Aww. Yuck.

Their story was hardly groundbreaking but we see their initial introduction and their blossoming romance. We laugh at their highs and get a little teary eyed at their lows (If you’re into that sort of thing). The pair do endure some struggles along the way which made for some interesting moments.

BUT it never really hit the heights I expected nor was it as dramatic as I hoped BUT the will-they-won’t-they? with Eastwood and Robertson soon became nothing but filler by comparison.

Their relationship ironically hits little snags alongside the retelling of Ira and Ruth’s. A perfect example being when Eastwood’s cowboy is invited to an art gallery. He soon makes his views known with the pretentious admirers. One of them being none other than Jeanie from ER. Ol’ Gloria Reuben. Yes, I’m a ER fan. Make of that what you will.

There wasn’t a bad supporting cast. The soon to be Supergirl Melissa Benoist managed to make a memorable turn as Robertson’s crazy college room mate. BUT more could have been made with Lolita Davidovich as Eastwood’s mother. She seemed too passive and laid back but with a son so stubborn, passivity seems to be the only route.

The problem with these sort of films is that no matter what hardship the couple endures, the result is always the same. I’m not for cynical and miserable endings but to do they have to be so sugary sweet?

The closing minutes were unbelievably corny BUT nicely done. A little side story from the ailing Ira came full circle and made a nice surprise. I will stay as cryptic as possible with that one.

I haven’t read the book and this . . . doesn’t make me want to BUT if you love romantic dramas and easygoing stories than I can think of worse ways to kill a couple of hours.

But unlike the adorable romance of Ira and Ruth, I don’t think this film will stand the tests of time. The cast do their best and have cracking chemistry but we’ve seen it all before.

2.5/5

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DANNY COLLINS REVIEW

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Brilliant!

An ageing rock star (Al Pacino) decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon.

There is nothing more enjoyable than when you see a film with no expectations and end up being rewarded with great acting and good writing.

Al Pacino proves at 75 that he’s still got it. I was a little anxious after his recent endeavours. Understandably, he’s no spring chicken but Pacino looked like he was sleepwalking through his latest roles. In 88 Minutes, he was a mess. A zombie. A shell of the once great screen icon.

However, this time round? How glad I am to eat my own words. The man was on fine form. Funny, charismatic and lively. A resurgent performance.

This is very loosely, and I emphasize loosely, based on a true story about a musician who discovered a letter written to him by John Lennon 40 years ago. The rest, of course, is fictionalized.

We join Danny Collins as he drinks and drudges his way through the repetitive retread of his best hits. Hits he wrote 40 years ago. Pacino’s singing wasn’t bad. A little wispy but very much in the vein of Cat Stevens. I wasn’t expecting too much with his singing, to be honest.

His stage presence, on the other hand, was another story. Embracing his inner Barry Manilow. The velvet jackets, the flamboyant get up. Having a laugh and not giving two monkeys. A perfect showman. I’m not sure if the song ‘Baby Doll’ was made up for the film but it was quite catchy.

After receiving the letter, Collins (in typical movie fashion) soon re-evaluates his life and looks backs at all his regrets. Realizing that he might not be living the dream after all. Desperate to make amends and repair burned bridges, it’s not going to be an easy task for the ageing rocker.

Annette Bening was very good as the hotel manager Mary Sinclair. Forced to put up with the deluded musician and his many advances. The “patter” between the pair was top notch. They had great chemistry and you could tell they were having fun. There were moments where you couldn’t tell whether they were improvising or not.

It was good to see Jennifer Garner in a role. There wasn’t enough of her, to be honest. Giselle Eisenberg was adorable as Collins’ ADHD daughter. She played it really well and got the balance right. She didn’t irritate and stole the scene at every chance.

Bobby Cannavale proved yet again why he is such a versatile actor. The range that the man can do. To go from Gyp Rosetti in Boardwalk Empire to the Annie remake (Okay, the less we say about that. The better. But I never expected to see the gangster singing and dancing). He was brilliant as Collins’ estranged son, Tom. He worked well with Pacino and they really made the scorned father/son dynamic work.

It was also great to see Christopher Plummer play Collin’s best friend and manager. Not enough of him, either.

I was engrossed and impressed. An easygoing, entertaining affair. BUT even though the main cast were flawless, some of the supporting characters were a little weak.

Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) was wasted in his role (No, seriously. Was he drunk?). The opening interview scene was needed to establish the reason for Lennon’s letter but Offerman didn’t really get to shine or deliver a laugh. Shame. The scene was a little unnecessary. The tape recording of the interview would have sufficed.

Melissa Benoist (Supergirl/Whiplash) and Josh Peck (Drake and Josh) were a little disappointing. Their ongoing hotel staff romance felt forced. It was obviously an ongoing joke to break up the family stuff and Collins and Sinclair’s brewing romance but it didn’t really work and wasn’t that interesting.

The film may have been corny and a little predictable BUT there was enough charm and charisma from ol’ Scarface to breeze through it and the closing moments were tense, dramatic and uplifting.

The soundtrack was very good. And of course, it would be. You can’t have a story made around a loose John Lennon connection without using any of his repertoire. Writer/director Dan Fogelman made full use of the nine songs they were able to obtain from Lennon’s back catalogue. He incorporated every song to match a crucial moment in the film. A perfect example during a tense and awkward first meeting between Tom and Danny, the song ‘Beautiful Boy’ was playing in the background.

Why are films like this not getting enough publicity? It baffles me. The premise may seem like nothing more than a TV movie but there was enough talent and substance to make this stand out from the rest.

I highly recommend. Easygoing, funny, charming. A pleasant surprise.

3.5/5 (With room to change to a 4)

*OSCAR WINNER* WHIPLASH REVIEW

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The verdict is in. It may have won an Oscar BUT did it get a yes from the Mad Movie Ranter? There’s only one way to find out. Drum roll, please.

An intense psychological thriller + two stellar performances = one happy film goer.

One of the better ones. I have to say J.K. Simmons deserved that Oscar for Best Supporting Actor without a doubt. I originally banked my money on Edward Norton for Birdman. That was until I saw Whiplash.

So what’s it about? A promising young drummer (Miles Teller) enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor (J.K. Simmons) who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

Impressive work all round. The leads were superb and writer/director Damien Chazelle pens an impressive feature breaking away from his earlier efforts (The Last Exorcism Part II). He will certainly be one to watch in the future.

Teller (21 & Over/That Awkward Moment) proved he could actually act and act well. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to take him seriously after 21 and Over, That Awkward Moment and Divergent. BUT he was fantastic.

Ironically, however, he was always going to play second fiddle to Simmon’s Fletcher.

I have always rated Simmons as an actor and desperately craved for him to get a meatier role than the tidbits he was given. Bar Spiderman, of course.

And at last, we got one. J. Jonah Jameson, no more! I couldn’t take my eyes off him (Not like that. Behave and eugh!).

The opening sequence perfectly established both characters. Teller’s Andrew, an isolated loner intent on perfecting his craft, the drums. Constantly trying to be faster and better. Pushing himself and his body.

Enter Fletcher from the dark hallway. Slick and charming. Passionate for music. One bad note and he changes in an instant. Storming out into the dark abyss.

Thus starting a psychological battle for ambition and perfection and one of the better films I have seen this year.

Fletcher’s volatile behaviour keeps you on tenterhooks throughout the film.

Smooth and calming one second, demanding and violent the next.

The volatility was intense. In one scene, he throws a cymbal at Andrew’s head and slaps him over and over until he can identify the mistake he has made.

Relentless, dark BUT hypnotic. Some of Fletcher’s earlier put downs were quite comical. Nothing more than any teacher you got in an 80s comedy BUT it soon brews into something much more.

You constantly question why Andrew continues to take such savage treatment from such a deluded instructor?

BUT the more you see of his daily routine and his dinner dates with his dad (Paul Reiser), you soon realise that maybe Fletcher isn’t the only deluded player in the game.

It is a great examination piece on the lengths that people will go to achieve greatness.

By the end, you wonder who the real monster was. Is it Fletcher the volatile perfectionist? Or Andrew the self-isolated masochist who constantly pushed himself until his fingers literally bled?

It was great to see Paul Reiser (Mad About You) back in the mix. He played Teller’s father well but there wasn’t enough of him to be honest. But I think that’s kind of the point. Probing and providing some sort of explanation into Andrew’s psyche and behaviour.

Melissa Benoist (Glee) and Teller had good chemistry together and made their couple seem quite real. Normally, you get the awkward cheesy guff BUT it was played down and done quite well. I wanted more of that dynamic.

The drum solo sequences do go on a little bit BUT that is coming from someone who is not a jazz fan. The songs (when NOT interrupted by the foul mouthed Fletcher dispersing insults or instruments) were very good.

The pace dipped a little halfway through the film UNTIL an unexpected moment. NO SPOILERS! I didn’t see it coming and the finale. Just wow! Everything coming to an explosive end, metaphorically.

It was tense, nail biting and riveting. I came out of the screen NOT wailing, like Fletcher, at another film for “NOT BEING ON MY TIME!” but pleasantly surprised and rewarded.

This gets a 3.5/5 BUT I may change this to a 4.

I am very hard to please (Steady now). To get a 3.5 is pretty damn good for a fellow art lover desperately seeking perfection.

If you want a suspenseful psychological thriller with two brilliant and extremely underrated actors, then I can’t think of many other titles. Invest.