*NEW* IT REVIEW *NEW*

IT didn’t do much for me.

The highest grossing horror movie in box office history? Really?

A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown (Bill Skarsgard), begins hunting children.

For all the hype, I expected something more. Not to say, I didn’t enjoy it.

BUT a horror movie is supposed to scare you, right? Unsettle you, creep you out. Stick in the back of your mind days after viewing. No?

As a kid, I was always creeped out by Tim Curry’s Pennywise. Perhaps if I watched the 1990 TV mini-series now, I’ll probably laugh my arse off.

BUT it didn’t matter how demented Skarsgard’s Pennywise looked, he just did nothing for me.

Now don’t get me wrong. It was very watchable.

The creepy opening sequence was brilliantly executed. Benjamin Wallfisch’s haunting score. That little yellow rain coat. The familiar feeling of unease rising as Georgie’s boat was engulfed by that infamous sewer drain.

Skarsgard was an excellent Pennyise. He delivered a stellar turn as the iconic movie clown. The make-up and special effects were deliciously gruesome and gory.

In all fairness, I couldn’t fault any of the cast. They were all perfectly chosen for the roles.

Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) was on scene stealing form at every opportunity as Richie. Throwing in the odd quip or funny insult.

Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special) played Bill very well. Nailed the stammer (I don’t know if commending a speech impediment is a great line but you get what I mean, right?).

Jeremy Ray Taylor was very good as Ben, the new kid on the block (Yeah, I meant that reference IT fans). Jack Dylan Grazer was comical as the hypochondriac Eddie. BUT what do you expect with an overbearing mother like that? Sheesh. No spoilers.

The tension was built up perfectly in every scene and actually avoided going for the cheap scare. Unlike the majority of new horror movies or “found footage flicks” of late.

I loved the Stand By Me melancholy. The coming of age tale subtly composed against the darker murder mystery.

Pennywise’s appearance only scraping the surface of this seemingly idyllic town as the kids faced demented bloodthirsty bullies, lecherous pharmacists and freaky apparitions.

The grief theme was delicately handled with Bill. His parents nothing more than depressed shells. Zombies unaware of the horrors that dwell in the sewers.

Nicholas Hamilton (Captain Fantastic) was savage as the head bully Henry Bowers. He unsettled me more than Pennywise. That kid was messed up.

I did like how Pennywise attacked the gang by playing on their worst fears. The diseased leper and headless corpse apparitions were grotesque enough. And a highly unsavoury encounter between Beverly (Sophia Lillis) and her father left me on tenterhooks.

BUT the pace was a bit slow for my liking. There was a lot more humour than I expected. Sometimes a little too much that it killed the atmosphere. Sorry, I like my horrors dark.

I know they’re teenagers but the rock throwing altercation with the bullies with the overbearing 80s jams was a little silly.

If I’m honest, I found my patience running thin, the more Pennywise appeared. The running and screaming got on my nerves. I would have punched that clown in the face. Seriously. Beastly teeth or otherwise.

I don’t think it helped that I find clowns funny. So when Pennywise was delivering his freaky dance in one “creepy” scene, I was in stitches. A moment that has sparked endless (and hilarious) memes.

I mean, come on!

I didn’t jump. All the build up with no payoff. Maybe I was more inclined for the “cheap jump” trick than I thought. I just wasn’t on the edge of my seat or hiding behind my hands.

I felt Chosen Jacobs’ Mike and Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley got lost in the mix. Especially when Bill, Beverly and Ben’s love triangle came into play. BUT with such a mad bunch of eclectic characters, it was due to happen. Shame.

Maybe I expected too much from the hype.

My main qualm (and I know this has bugged people) was that it didn’t creep me out. Normally after I watch a horror movie, I go home and dread turning the lights on. None of that. If it weren’t for this review, I might have already forgot about IT.

Everything floats. Well, so did my interest.

IT wasn’t bad by any means.

IT created tension, delivered characters with depth and told an actual story but the pace tested and it just didn’t scare or unsettle me. The purpose of a horror film.

3/5

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*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* BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE REVIEW *NEW*

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Yawwwnnnnn of Justice. Oh dear. Oh dear. Was it a DC disaster? Or a misunderstood masterpiece?

There’s only one way to find out . . .

Fearing that the actions of Superman (Henry Cavill) are left unchecked, Batman (Ben Affleck) takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.

All that hype. All that anticipation. My brother fell asleep in the cinema. People argued with me on how terrible it was. The feeling of disappointment hit me in the gut like a punch from Supes himself.

Yet somehow on second viewing, it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered.

The strong opening delivered everything I hoped. A brooding, dark, tense action packed sequence with stunning visuals and a menacing score from the Mad Max maestro Junkie XL and Hans “Gladiator” Zimmer.

While the credits rolled, we had the quickest recap through Batman’s origins. No matter how many sequels, reboots and remakes; it’s always the same story. I wondered why Snyder grabbed The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as Bruce’s parents. A real waste. They didn’t have any more screen time in the Extended Edition!

However, I liked how the writers answered one question straight off the bat that bugged the hell out of me during the Man of Steel finale; “How have Superman and Zod not killed any people with all that destruction?!”

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The answer was simple. They did. The eerily 9/11 vibe to the Man of Steel’s destruction was unsettling as Zod (Michael Shannon – Midnight Special) and Superman ploughed through tower after tower. One of the buildings being none other than Wayne Enterprises.

A haunting image of a bitter Bruce Wayne cradling a child covered in rubble and carnage. Cue the movie title.

A shame that momentum couldn’t be carried on. I wasn’t overly impressed with Man of Steel BUT thought Cavill was brilliant as the man in the red cape. It was long at the tooth and far too serious for its own good. Only lightening up in the closing act.

Bit like this one, really . . .

BvS: Dawn of Justice should have been called Man of Steel 2 ft. Sulky Batman.

I liked the idea. It was just the execution that spoiled things. The whole debate about Superman being a false God and the security risks were all too realistic and the surprisingly bleak and cynical undertone offered a completely different direction to the Avengers.

This should have been a shot out of the ball park with the Watchmen (Very underrated film) director at the helm.

The main issue was the disjointed and incredibly convoluted plot. Amy Adams was completely wasted as Lois Lane. She was sent off on some uninteresting goose chase around the States bugging senators about experimental warfare and some ruse involving African terrorists and Russian gangsters that . . . basically was a shoddy excuse to force our two “heroes” to meet. Either that or fishing around for a spear of Kryptonite. Yup.

And the end result was so tragically predictable.

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Jesse Eisenberg’s (The Social Network) take on Lex Luthor was a mixed bag. I was always #TeamBatman BUT I did enjoy Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey’s take on Supe’s renowned foe.

BUT Eisenberg just flailed about and waffled insufferable verbal diarrhea. Applying his usual schtick. Instead of taking the opportunity to play a different character. There were moments where he showed potential. An interesting anecdote about Granny’s Peach Tea delivered an unexpected punch line.

Now onto the Dark Knight. Batfleck was superb. He was an excellent Batman and an even better Bruce Wayne. It was going to be tough to follow on from Bale BUT he nailed it. His Batman counterpart followed on from the Bale Bat quite well.

If anything his character had become embittered and disillusioned. Branding his victims with a mark of justice that was pretty much a death sentence. Brutal. Angry with the world. The good men are gone.

“Even you’ve got too old to die young. Not for the lack of trying”. There wasn’t enough Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Desperate for the billionaire to seek something other than vengeance.

“Crime spree in Gotham. Water is wet.” Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) was on fine form as the Daily Planet Editor Perry White. I wanted more of Gal Gadot’s character. The mystery surrounding Diana Prince as she stumbled into Wayne’s dangerous game of chess was much more interesting than anything Luthor could conjure up.

It was at the half way marker where my patience was tested. It didn’t help having one of the most disjointed flash forwards (teasers) thrown into the mix. It didn’t fit in with the film at all. A bold statement by the producers (hoping that more movies will come to explain it) BUT it was completely out of sync with what was going on.

It certainly wouldn’t have made any sense to the DC newbies. I know it was played off as a strange dream sequence that introduced another Justice League member BUT it didn’t work.

“Black and blue. Fight night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world: God versus man; day versus night; Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!”

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The build up, the anticipation, two flippin’ hours of mindless exposition! All for an intense 15 minutes.

The brooding, the stare-offs, the tension. A training montage that could have parodied Rocky IV with ol’ Bruce dragging massive tyres and lifting weights while Kent traipsed around a snowy mountain.

The special effects were fantastic. The minute fight sequence was set up quite well as the Caped Crusader set up an obstacle course for the nearly indestructible son of Krypton.

Cavill and Affleck worked well off each other and made the fractious exchanges much more watchable and entertaining. I just wish they hadn’t spent so much of the film keeping them apart!

And the final 30 minutes offered more of what I expected from the get go. It took itself much less seriously and threw in some needed humour and once Wonder Woman got involved, it was a riot. That score every time she came on though. Talk about overkill with the horns. Jeez.

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Despite my initial disappointment and nitpicking, this wasn’t a complete write-off. It showed promise and offered a completely different direction to the Marvel movies. One that may be darker, broodier and bloodier.

By all means NOT a bad thing. BUT can they work on crafting the characters, a better story and the flipping pace first?!

3/5

*NEW* MIDNIGHT SPECIAL REVIEW *NEW*

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Not that special.

A father (Michael Shannon – Man of Steel) and son (Jaeden Lieberher – St. Vincent) go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers.

Overhyped, drawn out and disappointing. A patchy affair, to say the least.

The opening 30 minutes was everything I expected. It was tense, slow burning and mysterious as we watched Roy (Shannon) and Alton (Lieberher) hiding out in motels. Only travelling at nightfall. Evading capture at any cost. A suspenseful encounter with a state trooper after a late night car collision was nail-biting.

All the questions with none of the answers. Hook, line and sinker! Joel Edgerton (Warrior) worked well with Shannon as his friend and partner in crime. Lieberher excelled yet again (after a stellar turn in St. Vincent) as Alton. He felt like a cross between ET and D.A.R.Y.L. If said aliens were brainwashed by a religious cult.

I did expect more from Shannon’s performance. He didn’t impress as much as I hoped. Was a leading role a stretch too far after so many iconic supporting roles (Man of Steel/Boardwalk Empire)? He just wasn’t charismatic enough. I wanted to care for the pair. BUT as the film drudged along, my patience was soon tested.

Thankfully Jeff Nichols didn’t explore too much of Sam Shepard’s (Mud) crazy ranch cult. I was happy NOT to be stuck with that dreary subplot. It felt like a pale imitation of Big Love (A show I would highly recommend). The perception that Alton was a gift from God was different BUT it didn’t really go anywhere.

Kirsten Dunst (Fargo) was wasted in her role. Her character was so weak and one dimensional. There was NO connection or chemistry between her and Shannon (or their characters) and by the time the frenetic finale came to a close, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

NOT even Kylo Ren could save the day. Adam Driver’s (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) initial introduction was annoying and dull. His communication babble and co-ordinate guff put me into a mini-coma.

It probably didn’t help that he looked like Matt from the hilarious Saturday Night Live Star Wars Undercover Boss skit (Check it out – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaOSCASqLsE). However, Driver’s nerdy shtick soon won me over and was a much needed boost in this increasingly drawn out yarn.

The mystery throughout the first half of the film was the only thing keeping me going. The fact we didn’t know why Alton was special. Why did he have to leave? Who was coming for him? Did he even have powers? Was it a hoax? Mere pandemonium from a bunch of deluded zealots?

All we knew was that he had to wear goggles during the day and stay out of the sunlight. BUT the second half of this sci-fi snooze-fest threw that out of the window with Alton blazing light out of his eyes like Cyclops from X-Men. Pulling satellites out of the sky and babbling in radio frequencies.

Don’t get me wrong, when it (finally) kicked off, there were moments to be had. The special effects were brilliantly executed and the chase sequences soon stopped me fidgeting in my seat.

BUT I think it would have worked much better if Nichols had played out whether Alton was an alien or not up to the very end. The sci-fi stuff was revealed far too early. Killing a lot of the tension and suspense for me.

I loved the Close Encounters of Third Kind vibe to the piece BUT it was far too patchy. There were only so many sweeping shots from Adam Stone’s beautiful cinematography and brooding scores (from regular Nichols stalwart David Wingo) to keep my interest.

The finale was frantic and baffling BUT ultimately by the closing credits, predictable and disappointing. A bizarre set design, that was supposed to be breathtaking and captivating, looked like something from Tomorrowland.

Nichols left it on a strange climax with more questions. I could see what he was trying to do BUT by the end I really didn’t care. For all the mystery and tension, it couldn’t hide what was a rather weak and tame alien road movie that (despite all the promise) lacked in depth or originality.

It was watchable BUT far too patchy and overhyped. Personally, Mud is still my favourite out of Nichols’ works.

2.5/5