*NEW* INSURGENT REVIEW *NEW*

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Dull-vergent returns. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice . . . Well, shame on me again, I guess.

Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.

Well, it killed the time. But would I watch it again? Would I recommend it? Ah, no.

I haven’t read the Divergent books (and I’m certainly not going to after this) BUT I actually liked the first feature film adaptation. It was racy, engaging if a little predictable. BUT as I said back then, if there was going to be a sequel, they would need to take it up a notch.

It was watchable enough but if anything, Insurgent took the wind out of Divergent’s sails. It was slow, overlong and cliched as hell. It only really got going in the last twenty minutes. Not good enough.

It doesn’t help that the silver screen has been flooded with endless teen bestseller adaptations since The Hunger Games. These films really need to hit the ground running or at least offer something different to make a memorable impression. The Maze Runner had messed up zombies and a MAZE! Hunger Games had . . . Jennifer Lawrence (What?!)

Insurgent offered the same old re-tread like its predecessor but with weaker results. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad.

Shailene Woodley and Theo James still have cracking chemistry and kept the spark going. I just could have done with a little less schmaltz. Woodley seems to be shaking off the squeaky clean image and with that severe haircut, she certainly proved she can play the strong lead well. Okay, her haircut wasn’t that bad. I just wondered why the hell she did it.

The running sequences didn’t really grab me as much as Divergent. A chase involving a train certainly kept me quiet for a few minutes and there were some decent set pieces. BUT the story line and characters really hampered this yarn a treat.

Ansel Elgort’s Caleb grated against me. His constant indecisiveness was infuriating. Standing around aimlessly while watching his little sister being throttled and hung out of a train. Laughable. And when he finally strikes, he hit a semi-conscious Factionless with a lead pipe. Tut tut tut.

Naomi Watts was wasted in her role. There was potential in exploring Four’s background but it didn’t really surmount to much. If not for a revelation in the film (Don’t worry – no spoilers here), I would have deemed Watts’ character unnecessary. Obviously she will have a more prominent role in the next installment, but here’s the thing Insurgent didn’t really make want to see the next one.

Miles Teller played the wise cracking Peter well. BUT that BACKSTABBER label was stamped so hard on his head that it wasn’t a surprise when he inevitably picked his moment of betrayal. As much as I didn’t mind seeing more of Teller, it was at the expense of Zoe Kravitz and Maggie Q who were virtually absent.

Jai Courtney provided a perfect rival to Four and brought some much needed tension. Kate Winslet played a hard ass as well as she could but there was only so much pouting you can do while looking angry and holding an iPad.

I was baffled with where this film was going. I thought during the closing minutes of Divergent that Bea was already running to the gates or outskirts of the compound (or whatever it was) and escaping. Yet in Insurgent, the gang are hiding and then going back. For what?

Some mumbo jumbo about a cryptic box that can only be opened by a (Surprise, surprise!) Divergent. A box that did absolutely nothing and supposedly contained a message from ‘The Others’. A message that was not worth the two hour wait.

The Matrix style piping with Trish’s Inception style dream sequences went on far too long and didn’t really do anything. I was disappointed after all the promise that Divergent suggested. It seemed to take a darker turn half way through which did pique my interest but then chickened out.

This really felt like a case of filler before the final Part 1 and Part 2 sequels. The cast do their best with the material and the special effects and set pieces did enough to pick up the lumbering pace BUT I would really have to think twice about venturing to the cinema to see the next part.

2.5/5

FANTASTIC FOUR REVIEW

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The Fantastic Four – The College Years, more like.

A mess. A watchable one but a mess all the same.

A pointless rehashing of the same old origin story does nothing for the franchise and somehow manages to make their flawed predecessors look like a masterpiece!

I’m not going to lie. I enjoyed the other Fantastic Four films. What? They never took themselves seriously and that was their winning charm. Okay, The Rise of the Silver Surfer really did push it but I liked the cast. And no! Not just because of Jessica Alba. They also stayed true to the source material.

Did Marvel and Sony just reboot it because they suddenly realised that the Human Torch was Captain America?! Because Alba and Ioan Gruffudd were certainly not past it.

A younger cast was certainly ambitious and smart (in theory) if there was to be more of the little money makers. BUT this latest offering from Chronicle director Josh Trank didn’t set things off with a bang, I’m afraid.

A contemporary re-imagining? Well, it certainly changed things about but it didn’t quite impress and no matter how much you changed the package, it was still the same old guff inside.

So what is this one about? Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.

So no cosmic rays?! Crazy. The alternate dimension was a promising set up and had potential but it never really went anywhere. Merely a backdrop for their origin and for smash em up action. Nothing more.

The opening chugged along as we watch a young Reed Richards try and wow his uninterested school mates with inter dimensional travel and teleportation. Corny but watchable. He soon befriends a classmate whose family own the local scrap yard. That friend is Ben Grimm.

And that the rest is . . . A mess. I respect that the filmmakers tried to focus on aspects that the other films didn’t. Establishing Reed and Ben’s childhood friendship was a nice touch but it took up too much of the screen time. PLUS one of Marvel’s characters completely changing occupation? Astronaut to scrap nut? Really?

After some tame high school tomfoolery with a bitter Dan Castellaneta (Yes, Homer Simpson!), the film started heading in the right direction. Or so I thought. I kept saying to myself, “This is definitely just going to be build up”. BUT I didn’t care if the finale delivered.

The casting selections were a mixed bag. Miles Teller fared better as Reed Richards than I thought. When he was delivering quick witted sarcasm, I feared that he was just doing his usual spiel. BUT by the end, he made the role his own.

I didn’t have an issue with the “controversy” surrounding Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. If anything, I had full confidence after seeing his impressive filmography. He was more than up to the task but he was just wasn’t given enough one liners or memorable dialogue. His Fast and Furious introduction got him into the mix well but his character was nowhere as charming or as entertaining as Chris Evans’ counterpart.

Kate Mara wasn’t that bad as Susan Storm BUT she was just too passive. Happy to let the guys get on with it. Alba was very active (Careful now) in the other movies. Plus how Mara’s Susan got her powers was a little silly. Seriously, an energy slap? You’ll know what I mean when you see it. The force field stuff was pretty cool, though.

Toby Kebbell was pretty good as Victor Von Doom. A much more troubled and demented villain. I always felt that Julian McMahon was too smug and smarmy for Dr Doom. An easily beatable Bond villain. BUT they rushed Kebbell’s transformation way too quickly and wasted a promising opportunity.

My biggest qualm with casting was The Thing. A Hulk-esque powerhouse. Chiklis was perfect for the role. So surely someone of his build and gravitas would be considered, right?

Jamie Bell.

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Billy Flippin’ Elliott?! Tough guy? What? Surely not because he’s Northern? Behave. The muscle? What muscle? He’s a lanky git. Does The Thing dance in the comic books? Anyway . . .

The special effects weren’t bad on The Thing. If you don’t mind him looking like a rocky Cheeto. But the voice work? He didn’t even sound like Bell. So why choose him?

Reg E. Cathey was excellent as Dr Franklin Storm. The man that would unite them all. His voice. Move over, Morgan Freeman. He should have been a baddie with those gravelly tones. It was a shame that his character got pushed further into the background as the film continued.

Tim Blake Nelson played the creepy corporate drone well. The meddling middle man more concerned with money than welfare. BUT it was all too predictable. How could the young “geniuses” not know that he had a hidden agenda?

The action set pieces and CGI were like the superhero flick. Hit and miss. Impressive in one second and disorienting and cartoony the next. The force field tricks and Reed’s face changing were decent BUT by the finale, it was all too frantic. There was too much going on that the effects became one big blur.

It didn’t help that the tone was all over the place. It tried to be too serious which worked for the first hour but it also took away a lot of the fun. Dr. Doom’s introduction via a lab massacre was deliciously violent for its 12A rating. Promising.

BUT with its darker tone, Reed’s elastical talents didn’t fit. If anything, every time he threw an outstretched punch or kick, it was hilarious. It just didn’t tie in with the other’s abilities.

The plot was shoddy. We spent an hour waiting for the inevitable. Waiting for the gang to get their powers. Hardly spoilers but then . . . POSSIBLE SPOILERS! It flashes forward a year. All that build up and we don’t get to see the guys adjust to their abilities? Granted we had two films of that before but for all the build up and time invested, why the hell not?

Just a quick two minute summary? Really? What made me laugh was that for all it’s re-imagining; we still had Ben and Reed fight. Ben bitter over Reed breaking his promise to make him human again and the same old love triangle between Doom, Reed and Susan.

Credit where it’s due. The love triangle was merely suggested but you just know where it’s heading. The only thing that I did find interesting was how The Thing became an army weapon but we only got little video clips. Johnny uses a suit to switch on his abilities to “FLAME ON”. He never needed that before. If he takes it off, is he just fire? Hmmm . . . Didn’t really explain that.

The finale was rushed. Were they afraid to break the two hour marker or something? Doom was finally brought in. Things getting tasty. At last. Nope. They dispose of him in a matter of minutes. It didn’t help that it was done in such a dreadfully corny and deflating way. A chance to improve from the originals and somehow managing to make the same mistakes even worse.

The closing scenes promised the laughs and charm with the team finally gelling. A hint of more fun and cheesiness. But hang on, I thought that was why the other two were panned? I understand a young cast was an investment for more movies. BUT you kinda need to make people want to see more of them?

It just wasn’t good enough. It killed 100 minutes, I guess. There could be promise in the next installment but it should make you want to watch the next one. NOT consider it.

Pretty poor from the four.

2.5 (Just)/5

*I did laugh when I waited with a packed screen of eager Marvel fans through the endless credits. I’ll save you the time. There wasn’t any! No Stan Lee cameos (Well, he was in the other two, I guess). Nothing. Just a nice thank you for all the people who are keeping their jobs. I think some of them will be missing them after this flop.

*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.

DIVERGENT REVIEW

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Watchable enough. Even if the film was Di-Verging on Being a Hunger Games Rip off.

In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris (Shailene Woodley) learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four (Theo James) must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late.

We’ve seen it all before. BUT with a well acted cast and likeable characters, I was happy to enjoy the ride.

I haven’t read the book. And after watching this, I don’t think I will any time soon. For those who also haven’t; the film is set in a post apocalyptic future Chicago. In order to maintain peace, the city has been split into five factions and shielded with a giant wall (Ironic). From what? Nobody knows. No, seriously. Nobody knows.

The factions are; Arudite, Candor, Dauntless (the irritating and OTT Dauntless), Amity and Abnegation. For those who haven’t swallowed a dictionary, Abnegation helps the homeless or “Factionless”, in this case. Introduce the lovely (and my new crush) Shailene Woodley as isolated teen Tris who is struggling to fit into said faction.

The pace chugged along as Tris was torn between fulfilling her obligations to her parents and finding her true calling, her identity (Zzzzz). Lucky for her there was a big test in which she can change factions. BUT everything is NOT what it seems.

Woodley is a very likeable lead and there were a couple of moments I didn’t expect to happen, which made a nice surprise from my teen blockbuster check list that I’ve accumulated over the years. Theo James played the brooding and mysterious (BUT NOT really that mysterious) Four well.

He has come a long way from sniffing p** in The Inbetweeners Movie (Yep, that guy). He even mastered a flawless American accent.

There was good chemistry between him and Woodley as inevitably sparks flew. The fighting through the ranks of the factions was very Hunger Games. The dinner halls were something out of Harry Potter, only more macho and messier.

The action sequences were entertaining enough; the Inception-esque dream sequences were interesting (if a little repetitive). The big twist reveals were predictable but the ending still kept me from twiddling my thumbs with a racy finish.

Kate Winslet played the icy bitch Jeanine with aplomb. She wasn’t in it enough. For someone of her gravitas, the role seemed minute. BUT of course, if there are more movies (Ha ha!) in the pipeline than I can wait.

The ending was racy, action packed and picked up a meandering pace that was putting me into a mini-coma. Two and a half hours? Really? Is there a Hollywood rule that decrees that these all best selling teen novel adaptations must be said length? Must be for the die hard book fans after the mistakes HP made.

In all fairness, there wasn’t a bad supporting cast attached to this. Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad) played the nasty Eric to perfection. Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd were good BUT anyone could have played them.

Miles Teller (Whiplash) was pretty much played the same old spiel as the cocky fast talker. Zoe Kravitz, the only person to come out unscathed from After Earth (and rightly so), gave her all. BUT Mekhi Phifer was terrible and, with Courtney being all the domineering presence, unnecessary but again if more is to follow then his part might be justified.

And if there will be more, I hope we will explore Four’s past. We got a measly taster and it was one of the more interesting subplots. My main grumble was that if this was supposed to be the opening movie for an ongoing franchise, it needed to come out guns blazing.

This didn’t BUT it had just enough to pique my interest.

Watchable. We’ve had the build up. Now surprise me with the next one.

3/5!

THAT AWKWARD MOMENT REVIEW

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Awkward film altogether.

A talented cast do their best with the muddled material BUT it misses the mark completely. Corny, cheesy, predictable. A missed opportunity.

Efron plays the charismatic lead well as the typical commitment phobe and womaniser Jason. He quickly sums up the plot while freezing his backside off on a bench in the middle of Central Park. Some waffle about “So moment”. What? You know that so moment. So . . . where is this relationship going? Is it time to shape up or ship out? Move forward or move on. Cue a flashback and a mediocre movie. 

Miles Teller (Whiplash) played the oblivious Daniel with aplomb. Providing a much needed comic relief. We join the pair as they enjoy sleeping around with their “roster” of women. While Michael B. Jordan’s Mikey, a depressed 20-something married man has just discovered that his wife (Jessica Lucas – Pompeii) has been cheating on him. The pair attempt to cheer him up BUT instead fall for two ladies instead. After promising to their old pal that they would stay single with him. Meh.

The first encounter between Jason and Ellie (Imogen Poots – Need For Speed) was nauseating. However, the pair’s chemistry clicked and made the predictable hook up spiel a lot more watchable. Poots delivered a very convincing American accent. There was even some fun to be had. An awkward surprise party date was cringe-inducing BUT hilarious.

The film desperately tried to convey the lad culture in which blokes don’t share feelings. If we’re down, we drink. If we’re happy, we drink. We have to sleep around and only think with our d – muscles. The camaraderie between the three actors was really good and there was some genuine banter. Efron and Teller worked well together BUT some of the gags went on a bit. And Inbetweeners, they ain’t. Talking about cock spas and stuff like that just fell flat. The fake tan incident with Mikey was funny. Infuriatingly, the better one liners from that scene were only in the heavily flogged trailers.

The film struggled to set a tone. In one moment, it was a dirty teen sex comedy. The next, a nauseating rom com. Michael B. Jordan’s (Creed) character Mikey had the better story line BUT there was barely any of it. Despite a solid performance, he was pushed to the background. Shame. Instead, we were subjected to Efron’s subplot that had been done to death. Jordan’s story line commented on the struggles of young couples marrying early. More could have made out of that. A little too much of the Teller and Efron show.  

It wasn’t really until the hour marker that the drama or humour kicked off. Any real issues or noteworthy moments were soon ruined with corny schmaltz or a dirty joke. I mean the banter worked for a good portion of the film. The lads’ bickering about a new girlfriend crashing the “bachelor pad” was an argument I’ve experienced too many a time. Efron and Teller’s gay date debate in a sex shop as they were messing about with vibrators was juvenile BUT funny.

This was hardly a lad’s rom com as promoted. It tried to be different by focusing from that angle. BUT it never really got going. It was watchable, delivered the odd laugh BUT just when it seemed to pick up and bring some real issues to the fold, it buried them quick and went for an OTT and cheesy finale. Disappointing.

2/5