*NEW* 50 SHADES OF GREY REVIEW *NEW*

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I’d rather look at 50 different shades of grey than endure this again.

Well, that’s what I thought I was going to say. Yeah, I can’t believe I watched it either. What did the Mad Movie Ranter make of the highest earning controversial adult movie of 2015?

In a nutshell, I didn’t mind it.

Literature student Anastasia Steele’s (Dakota Johnson) life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).

After all the negative press, Twitter bashing and that massive Razzie collection, I kept thinking to myself “Am I missing something here?”. I found this kinky little love story quite watchable. The two leads had great chemistry. The soundtrack was excellent.

Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography was hypnotic and director Sam Taylor Johnson dealt with the subject matter tastefully. And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

Scandalous? Outrageous? Not at all. Was that the problem?

I will admit I’ve never read the books. And I don’t intend to. I made the mistake of buying them as a gift for my mother completely unaware that they were essentially “book porn”. A mistake that will forever haunt me. However, 50 Shades bookworms (and Mum) gave me a little context as I prepared myself. And to be honest, it wasn’t what I expected at all.

I thought Dakota Johnson played the naive and impressionable Anastasia perfectly. Her first encounter with the mysterious Mr Grey made for watchable viewing. I wasn’t sure if Jamie Dornan would deliver (after all the rumoured names attached to the role) BUT he handled it with plenty of charm and charisma. I was only familiar with the chap from his killer role in the BBC hit show The Fall. Considering he has a thick Irish accent, he mastered the American twang brilliantly.

At its core, it was a typical cheesy love story. BUT I’m happy to watch a movie like this if the couple are engaging enough. Luckily the pair’s chemistry kept things very watchable. The whole girl falls for wealthy businessman spiel has been done to death BUT of course, there was a slight twist on it all. Because Mr Grey has a secret. Hidden in the many rooms of his lavish penthouse suite.

“I want to show you my playroom”. An odd request from the mysterious millionaire. An innocent response from the naive Anastasia, “Like your X-Box and stuff?” and I was intrigued.

I thought the S&M stuff was handled delicately as Grey shared his seedy secret. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) and writer Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr Banks) slowly introduced it into the mix as their romance blossomed. Hardly controversial or sordid. Is that why people hated it because it wasn’t rude and filthy enough? There were some raunchy moments as Anastasia was blind folded and strapped up. And Miss Johnson certainly wasn’t that shy in getting her kit off.

It was an interesting contrast seeing Anastasia’s naivety of the situation. Finding Grey’s obsession a mere game. Not fully understanding that he’s only giving her a taster. The contract meeting to keep their relationship undisclosed was laughable in its own right. BUT the fact Anastasia doesn’t take it that seriously can only spell disaster.

Apart from the odd sex scene, their romance chugged along as Grey shared his rich lifestyle with Anastasia and even introduced her to his foster family. My main quibble was that the supporting cast were wasted. A shame considering the talent; Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist), Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) and Callum Keith Rennie (Memento).

Their characters were far too weak and merely there to break up the pair fooling around. I’m aware that they may feature more in the upcoming sequels. BUT they didn’t really make much of an impression for their first outing and Rita Ora looked like she was in the wrong movie.

Apart from that, I wasn’t really bored. The pace didn’t test. The soundtrack was great (Something else somebody bought for their mum). Featuring chart hits from The Weekend and Ellie Goulding. The closing moments certainly spiced things up as Grey’s inability to share and connect, along with his kinky fixation, continued to forge cracks in their fragile relationship.

I know there was a little backlash regarding a scene involving a slap BUT I thought it raised an interesting argument between the pair and attempted to question this S&M taboo. If anything, I was a little bit annoyed because we were starting to unearth a little more into Grey’s past, the pair had a massive fight and then it just ended. Rather abruptly.

Of course, more is to follow. And despite such low ratings, it was one of the highest earning R-rated movies of the year and earned a sequel. One I might actually be tempted to see. I don’t think they could have made the film any cruder because then it would have been a different kind of adult movie altogether. If you know what I mean.

I felt the pair had better chemistry than Kunis and Tatum in Jupiter Ascending and to be honest, in comparison to the other films that were nominated for the Razzies, this was a much better effort. Surprised, to say the least.

3/5

THE GUNMAN REVIEW

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Sean Penn doesn’t do many films but when he does . . .

They’re pretty damn boring.

So what’s it about? A sniper (Sean Penn) on a mercenary assassination team, kills the minister of mines of the Congo. Terrier’s successful kill shot forces him into hiding. Returning to the Congo years later, he becomes the target of a hit squad himself.

That was according to the IMDb. I had no idea what was going on. BUT by the end, I didn’t care.

From the director that brought you Taken . . .

Which one? 1-2-3? Oh, the first one. It should be okay, then. Biggest mistake of my life.

I expected no-nonsense, fist crunching, cars chasing, buildings exploding. ACTION! Not mindless exposition and cliched dialgoue with hammy characters that you couldn’t give two umphs about.

Sean Penn did his best. But his character was so weak and bland. He was the typical generic action hero.

Tortured good guy trying to do the right thing. Smitten with a woman he can’t have. Blah, blah, blah.

I don’t mind being force fed the same old predictable action movie bilge. Nothing’s original. BUT at least try and make it interesting or throw in lots of shiny explosions and high octane punch em ups to make up for it. Is that too much to ask?

Penn looked fit (Not in that way. Steady now). At 54, he proved he could still kick an ass or two. He dealt with the (little) action sequences we had on offer with ease.

I just wish his character didn’t feel like someone pulled out of The Expendables.

The plot was terrible. To make matters worse, it didn’t make any sense. The more they bleated on (and believe me, they did!), the more questions I had.

The opening didn’t really get things going at all. The whole Sky News reporting on The Congo showed potential. Keeping up with the times and building a story around it.

BUT oh how wrong I turned out to be.

The graphic footage and statistics were certainly an eye opener but they were soon pushed into the background for the usual Hollywood guff.

We are had to endure the drudge that was a hammy love triangle between Penn, Jasmine Trinca and Javier Bardem.

Bardem was probably one of the only saving graces. It’s just a shame that he got on my nerves as he went on. His *SPOILER* early departure from the film left a void that was never filled. The void being the rest of the film.

He played the part well as the sleazy operation leader hell bent on stealing Penn’s bird.

That was about as much as I got out of his murderous intent.

Seriously, the plot was that convoluted that it gave me a headache.

BUT don’t worry, it all ends the same way. That’s right. Corny as hell with no real thought or proper explanation. Lovely!

The problem with Bardem’s performance was that it was too manic. He went from a sleazebag to a drunken child within a few scenes. Bad writing. Bad interpretation. Shame.

Speaking of poor performances, Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall). Lordy lord. I couldn’t take him seriously. He sounded constipated. I kid you not. He looked the part. A slick, slimy corporate business type. Until he opened his mouth.

He wasn’t strong enough to be a lead villain. Even Penn didn’t look that convinced by him.

And Idris Elba. What was the point of him? What was his character’s relevance? He smarms his way in for about five minutes spouting some waffle to Penn about not building a treehouse in this garden today.

He chucks him a calling card (accompanied with a cheeky wink) and buggers off!

What a waste of a talented actor. The money must have been good. I mean, was his role cut in the film? To be honest, they missed a trick by not having his presence.

His character was a much needed injection. A bit of mystery. A quirky (if stupid) anecdote. BUT at least it was something.

The Gunman was dull, uninteresting and way too long. And considering it was called the Gunman. Penn didn’t use a lot of guns.

The action sequences were good when they appeared. Frantic, explosive but memorable? Hardly. They became a messy blur by the closing credits.

My main issue was that it seemed to take itself too seriously. The political commentary, the examination on the Congo, the endless “Will they, won’t they?” between Trinca and Penn (when we all knew they bloody would).

AND THEN as the final 30 minutes approached, they realised they had backed themselves into a corner and then desperately went out on an all-out offensive that just came off hammy, laughable and boring.

I mean, the showdown at the bull ring should have been brooding, tense and metaphorical. NOT hysterical.

I felt numb by the end. Deflated and my boredom still very much intact. To make matters worse, I looked to my movie massive (My two mates) and asked; “So why did they want him dead?”

The writer didn’t even make use of Penn’s forced plot device. A revelation that had potential to make this dud so much more.

Hardly spoilierific as it wasn’t explained or executed properly.

Penn’s character is diagnosed with an Alzheimers like disease. He has to record and write everything down. For a moment, I thought Memento meets American Sniper. Okay, let’s do this.

Oh no. Pardon the irony here but it seemed after introducing this newly discovered character flaw, they seemed to forget about it until the final 20 minutes when every time Penn has the chance to dispense some vengeance, what does he do?

He drops to the floor and wails about like’s he having the worst hangover ever!

The whole scorned man with nothing to lose as he’s about to lose the most precious thing of all has been done to death but it still could have offered something.

Not even Ray Winstone could save the day. You know you’re onto a loser when you’re praying for Ray’s messy mercenary to pop back into things.

Sean Penn should have corned him and said, “What are the odds of this film being recommended?”

(In gruffly Winstone voice) Defo worth seeing, san 1000/1.

Place your bets because I’m not.

And to make me laugh even further, I looked into the screenwriters. One of them. Sean Penn. Case closed.

AVOID.

1.5/5

TOP 20 BEST FILMS OF 2014 * PART TWO

SO HERE WE ARE . . . AT LAST. The second month into 2015.

I know, terrible. For those who are still interested, we have the SECOND PART of my best films of 2014. The top 11-20!

Feel free to search through my posts for my top 10. If you want, I can provide them.

The best (or better) ones of that mediocre movie year. My criteria mainly focused on the ones that surprised, intrigued and entertained me. And boy, it was tough. Many have been watchable. Okay at best. What was harder was condensing my 20 WORST films of 2014 (Which will be following shortly).

BUT there were diamonds in the rough sea of bilge that polluted the movie screens last year.

I have had to endure endless entries of mindless drivel regurgitating the same old plot, clichéd characters (even in their 3D wrapped foils) and excruciating acting or dreadful dialogue and to be honest, it’s killed my enthusiasm a little bit.

Now some entries you may question and unfortunately release dates are always different. My argument was films I saw in that year at the cinema. Some may have been released at the end of 2013 but I didn’t see them until early January 2014.

BUT that sums up my argument if they are in here.

I won’t go on too much about each film. That’s what the other posts are for but a quick two cents if you like. Some I hope you will nod in approval. Others you may scroll back and forth hoping that this is a joke. BUT my criteria is based on surprise, entertainment and engagement. So God knows what lies in store.

11. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Now I am actually reading the book. This film lost marks for stretching out its source material to the max. However, Jackson still manages to deliver the goods by harvesting a special effects extravaganza of a movie. This slicker, darker installment made up for the lumbering opener that was An Unexpected Journey. The pace may still have been a little long at the tooth BUT was certainly the best in Jackson’s second trilogy.

12. Captain America: Winter Soldier

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A Marvel sequel that wasn’t needed but surprised me in surpassing the stuttery original. I felt the first Captain America was rushed to introduce the Cap in time for the Avengers and didn’t really cover as much of the WW2 elements as I had hoped. A superhero fighting in the war had a lot more promise for me. BUT the sequel had a decent story, good action pieces and added depth to the ‘Cap. Plus it gave a lot more screen time to the Black Widow and the legendary Nick Fury (At last!)

13. The Raid 2

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Fast and furious . . . after an hour of droll exposition. BUT it was still the most intense action film I saw that year. The final 45 minutes surpassed the original in suspense and action. Worth the wait. It may not have beat the original overall BUT other films need to use this as the next “How To Make An Action Movie” textbook.

14. St Vincent

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Bill Murray at his best in this easy going indie dramedy. It was funny, well acted with some cracking one liners and an impressive debut from young wunderkid Jaeden Lieberher.

15. Before I Go To Sleep

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A tense, slowburning but well crafted psychological thriller. Memento meets While You Were Sleeping. Even if I had sussed the big twist. The unveiling still took me by surprise. I thought the cast were fantastic. Kidman was on fine form and the last 15 minutes were brilliant.

16. The Maze Runner

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You read that, right? We had numerous teen book bestseller franchises flooding the screens. Divergent, Hunger Games, The Giver and . . . The Maze Runner. I went in, really expecting the worst and for the majority of the film, I was hooked. It’s hardly original but it zipped along and stopped me grumbling.

17. Nightcrawler

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A superb performance from Gyllenhaal. Deservedly earning a BAFTA nomination. Somehow managing to out-Bale Bale in this dark take on the American dream. Satirical, grim and engrossing. If a little predictable with an abrupt ending BUT still worth a gander.

18. The Guest

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Mr Crawley has left the Abbey and he’s kicking ass and taking names. A cracking and charismatic performance in this strange but riveting indie action flick. It felt like a film of two halves. Some may not like how it pans out BUT it certainly took me by surprise. Badass film of 2014? Hell yeah!

19. What If

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What if Harry Potter did an indie chick flick? It would be an easygoing and entertaining affair. That’s what. Radcliffe and Kazan had great chemistry and were a normal and believable couple. I actually cared what happened to them unlike the other umpteen romantic comedies that have wasted my time.

20. Blended

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I told you that I was going to think outside the box. I said surprised or entertained me. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a Sandler movie. And this says a lot from a die hard fan. Hardly die hard BUT I’ve endured them all. Blended certainly isn’t perfect but it felt like a return of sorts. It was certainly a return for Drew Barrymore. The plot is stupid and some gags fall flat on their backside.

BUT when it was funny, it had me in stitches. The family dynamic was dealt with well. The handling with the grief issues was done nicely and was unexpected. I enjoyed it. There’s still hope for the Sandler. I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with something more. A good comedy. Hallelujah. Has the Mad Movie Ranter lost his marbles?

INTERSTELLAR REVIEW

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STELLAR casting and special effects. Shame, I just wasn’t INTER it.

I know. Not my best. BUT here we are. Well, certainly hyped. BUT did that hype help or hinder? There’s only one way to find out.

Christopher Nolan tackles the sci-fi genre in one of his most ambitious projects to date and . . . to mixed results for me.

Now for the record. I am a Nolan fan. Memento is still up there in my top movies list. Inception left me in awe. The Prestige was a well crafted thriller. I loved what he did with the Dark Knight franchise and Insomnia was an underrated crime thriller with the late great Robin Williams.

So it pains me to say that his latest offering left me unfulfilled.

I mean, science fiction isn’t my favourite genre but I love Twelve Monkeys, Blade Runner, etc.

In a nutshell, Interstellar is about a team of explorers who travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

BUT this is Christopher Nolan. And as we know, it’s never going to be that easy . . . or that simple.

He chose a perfect leading man in Matthew McConaughey. Great to see him fully resurrected from the movie scrapheap.

I will do my utmost NOT to divulge too much spoilerific information. So consider this a warning.

The opening hour was slow burning but had the slightest feel of a dystopian Signs. Thankfully without the CGI aliens allergic to water.

The idea that crop farming is a crucial asset as food and supplies are vastly running low was a scary and all too realistic premise.

I loved the satire in which the children have been re-educated into learning that man did not land on the moon, just to focus on their agricultural studies. Crazy. Delusions of grandeur no longer an option (Regardless of what conspiracy nuts think of the Moon landing).

John Lithgow was wasted in his role. He was somewhat passive and frankly unnecessary. Merely the guardian to Cooper’s kids.

Mackenzie Foy was brilliant as Murph. She worked well with McConaughey and made their fractious father/daughter relationship that much more endearing and engaging.

Murph’s fascination with a ghost in Cooper’s den made this feel more like a rural supernatural drama than a sci-fi flick.

However after an hour and some cryptic puzzle solving (keeping that as vague as I can), Cooper is soon initiated into NASA for a life-saving and utterly bonkers mission.

That did annoy me a little bit. We had all this build up for an hour or so AND THEN SUDDENLY BOOM! LIFT OFF! We’re in space.

Such a quick transition after some mind-numbing exposition about wormholes and coma-induced hyper-sleep by regular Nolan stalwart and screen icon, Michael Caine. All this scientific mumbo jumbo and not even a training montage?

Cooper is an engineer. That’s good enough for us. Chuck him on the ship. Okay . . .

Michael Caine isn’t very good at accents (AND a lot of people know that) BUT he still makes a memorable impression in his rather subdued science guy supporting role.

The cinematography of Hoyte Van Hoytema (that’s a real name) was breathtaking. A visual tour-de-force for the eyes alone. Even the desolate planet that is essentially made up of crashing waves looked stunning. This certainly rivals Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey on looks.

The second half of the film was tense, strange but hypnotic as tempers rose and theories pondered. A lot of bloody theories. Although I was intrigued by how staying on one planet for one hour would equate to 7 Earth years!  Mental!

The film score by the legendary composer Hans Zimmer complimented the atmospheric tension perfectly.

I don’t know whether it was me or the the cinema surround system BUT it was incredibly loud. So much so that it drowned out several of the characters and the scene stealers that were TARS and CASE. Seriously by the end, I wanted Zimmer to SHUT UP! I couldn’t hear what they were saying!

TARS and CASE? What the – What’s an interstellar journey across time and space without some robotic companions?!

The visual effects brought the robots to life. Their rapid wheel movements made the geek in me EEP a little. Voiced brilliantly by Bill Irwin (How The Grinch Stole Christmas) and Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds).

Irwin’s deadpan delivery made for some top notch banter between the robotic comedian and Cooper. Reducing his humour functions. I wish I could do that on a few people.

Anne Hathaway was very good as Brand. Her speech debating the ethics of love should have come off a little pretentious and long winded BUT her delivery made it highly engaging philosophical guff.

The cast was a fantastic selection BUT I felt that a few faces just blended into the background; William Devane, David Oyelowo, Casey Affleck and Wes Bentley (Oh dear!).

David Gyasi delivered a good turn as Romilly while Jessica Chastain was excellent which was crucial as the film drew to it’s mind boggling conclusion.

The quest for habitable planets did have some surprises along the way and made for some tense and exhilarating moments. A race against time as supplies and resources are running thin for our crew. Don’t worry, my lips are sealed. I ain’t saying nothing. BUT of course, there is a twist.

The twist! It’s the Nolans. Of course, there is a twist. Now, I saw it coming a mile away (Don’t mean to brag or anything). But the how? Woah. Not so much.

The explanation is crazy! Timey-wimey wormhole guff involving God knows what. Jonathan Nolan certainly put his theory of relativity into practice. BUT I felt that the deciphering and explanation went on far too long and then where I thought I had figured it out, I then didn’t and so on.

Inception had me actually stunned. This left me baffled and as I asked my colleagues what happened? I realised I did know what was going on BUT found plot holes. The scientific stuff might have been accurate but the decision making and events leading up to said twist were NOT so clear.

It didn’t help that as I went to tweet my 140 character review; the #InterstellarPlotHoles had already started trending.

The mix should have been heaven for me but it’s just didn’t deliver for me. I felt numb and had a head ache. I’m not stupid BUT this made me feel a little.

I respect the Nolans for bringing brains back to the blockbuster. It is very clever and brilliantly shot. The effects are to die for. BUT the story and pace dragged on too long for me and the final result wasn’t all it cracked up to be for me.

It’s hard not divulging plot points to quarrel elements. I mean the drone? What up with that?

It is certainly worth seeing and did something that not many films do these days. Get you thinking and talking. BUT for the right reasons? We shall see.

Timey wimey and hardcore sci-fi fans will love this. Others may feel a little bored and a little baffled. Best film of 2014? Sorry, that falls short. Different and diverse BUT also dense and difficult at times for me.

Alright, alright, alright for me.

3.5/5

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP REVIEW

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Before I Go To Sleep . . . I must tell you to go see this crafty little thriller.

A woman (Nicole Kidman) wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her.

From the opening, it felt like a cross between Memento and 50 First Dates. Especially when Christine’s (Nicole Kidman) husband Ben (Colin Firth) had to introduce himself and explain her condition.

I loved the fact it got straight to business. Presenting a dozen questions and leaving you just as baffled as the protagonist. It established the set up quickly and set the game afoot as Christine tried to piece together her memories.

The initial sequences in which Kidman is re-told the same story, only for her to forget again were a little repetitive. BUT you felt for Christine and also her husband. Reliving the same thing day after day. Thankfully, things picked up when Dr Nash (Mark Strong) made an introduction. Strong delivered a sterling supporting turn in the minute role.

Providing Christine with a video camera to record her thoughts at the end of each day, hoping to improve her memory (Pretty much like Memento minus the Polaroid. Ironically, snapshots were plastered all over the bathroom wall). As she digs deeper, little flickers and images trigger more memories.

With thrillers, it’s always a tough one. To get characters you care about. Mysteries that intrigue. Twists that make sense. And an ending that doesn’t spoil it all. The cast were superb. Nicole Kidman was finally given a better character with a far better story to work with. Delivering another underrated performance. She had great chemistry with the scene stealing Firth (Reunited after their fantastic turns in The Railway Man).

The premise was hardly original. BUT the unravelling and mystery element of the film was highly watchable as Christine gets closer and closer to the truth. Director Rowan Joffe (28 Weeks Later/The American) excelled in delivering the suspense and tension.

The only problem however was that with a small (if incredibly talented) cast, there wasn’t enough red herrings in the story. A lumbering middle act did hamper the pace and some parts were predictable and quite easy to guess

Once the BIG TWIST (Don’t worry, NO SPOILERS) was revealed, I still found myself surprised. The twist may have been slightly obvious but it was HOW that twist was revealed that won me over. Earning its plaudits. It also allowed for a tense and nail biting finale.

This was never going to top Memento. An exceptional thriller. BUT this film certainly made my contender list for the top films of 2014. A well acted and taut thriller that makes this one not to forget.

3.5/5