*NEW* LIFE REVIEW *NEW*

Despite the shoddy pace and wafer thin characters, there was still life in this tense little sci-fi horror.

A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

I didn’t expect much from this. The trailers bored me and the extended looks did nothing to win me over. BUT I was a fan of the line up. So was it shame on me?

Jon Ekstrand’s ominous score certainly grabbed my attention. The brooding atmosphere, the simmering tension, the nothingness of space. Seamus McGarvey’s glossy cinematography. Perfect.

It was just a shame that momentum couldn’t stick. The slow burning opening act soon put me into a mini-coma.

The disorienting claustrophobic camera work may have simulated the feeling of floating around in a space station BUT it irritated me. The POV angle of Ryan Reynolds’ Rory intercepting the damaged satellite was a nice touch.

BUT it didn’t help that the characters weren’t that interesting.

Rebecca Ferguson’s (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) uptight doc and Jake Gyllenhaal’s (Nocturnal Animals) depressed David were dreadfully dull.

I always felt Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai) was an underrated supporting actor BUT his character was dire. A perfect opportunity to shine squandered.

And Ryan Reynolds just played the same old spiel again. Adapting the role of the cocky fast talking joker. Boring.

There wasn’t any depth and the bland exchanges between the crew just killed the tension. Especially as they left messages for their loved ones and gave cringe inducing virtual tours of the ship to the “world”. Yuck.

Thankfully by the 25-30 min marker, the film finally hit its stride as the crew discovered life and the answers to the universe in the form of a squid-like jellyfish named “Calvin”.

Ariyon Bakare (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) made a memorable impression as Hugh. The delighted doc whose fascination with Earth’s new mascot bordered on obsession.

BUT I could still feel myself getting impatient as the crew carried out tests. However, one botched lab experiment later . . .

All that curiousity and wonder swiftly turned into sheer fear and panic as the crew’s new play thing decides to make a break for it. A bloody trail left in his wake.

The middle act delivered with an unnerving and nail biting thriller as Calvin continued to grow in size and intelligence. A game of cat and mouse set in motion.

“Calvin doesn’t hate us. He has to kill us in order to survive”.

The Alien meets Gravity vibe worked as the killer creature craftily picked the crew off one by one.

The special effects were brilliant. Calvin’s transformation creeped the hell out of me. His squid-like tentacles scuttling around the labyrinthine hallways. A spider toying with his prey. Shudder.

I was worried that the wafer thin character development would make me less interested in the crew’s survival BUT Gyllenhaal and Ferguson’s characters were thankfully fleshed out a little better as the danger ensued (Hell, I even warmed up to Reynolds).

There were genuine moments of suspense and I couldn’t see how it was going to end which made for a tense and thrilling finale.

And by the closing credits, I left the cinema pleasantly surprised.

Just persevere with the pace and you have a solid effort that does just enough to hold its own.

3/5 (Just)

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*NEW* JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK REVIEW *NEW*

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Generic by the book (OR NOT if you’re a fan) actioner that killed the time BUT offered little else.

Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. BUT on the run as a fugitive from the law, he uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

I’ve never read the Lee Child novels and I know a lot of fans were not happy to hear that the six foot blonde super soldier was being taken on by the 54 year old hobbit Tom Cruise. BUT I really liked Reacher’s first foray onto the silver screen. It was quick witted, dark, gritty and action packed.

I was actually looking forward to the sequel BUT by the time the credits rolled, I was left feeling disappointed. Reuniting with The Last Samurai director Edward Zwick, I expected so much more from Cruise and co.

The opening delivered with Reacher held up at a diner. A trail of unconscious men welcoming the local law enforcement. “There are two things that are going to happen”. Once that phone rang in the background, I cracked a grin.

It felt like we hadn’t left him. A shame that momentum couldn’t be carried on. While the elongated title sequence and credits flashed across the screen, we watched Reacher finding solace in talking with Major Turner (Cobie Smulders). It was a little too corny for my liking as the pair struck up a friendship and agreed to meet for a date. Awww. Yuck.

However, things did pick up as Reacher finally arrived at Washington only to discover that Turner had been arrested for treason.

The next 30 minutes or so I was engrossed in the cloak and dagger stuff as the military went out of their way to stop Reacher sniffing around. Holt McCallany (Gangster Squad) was brilliant as the slimy Colonel Morgan.

If anything, I wish his character was in it more. He was a better villain than Patrick Heusinger (Black Swan). He may have had a cool title as The Hunter BUT he was too one dimensional to care about. He did his best BUT he was just another stock baddie. It didn’t help that the script didn’t have any clever dialogue. The lines were so flat and dull.

It was missing something. Christopher McQuarrie’s (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) direction. The snappy one liners. The suspense. Even the car chases didn’t impress. It was watchable and the shoot out sequences and punch em ups were entertaining enough BUT they soon grew tedious and predictable as the running time staggered along.

Whilst trying to discover the reason for Turner’s incarceration, Reacher was sandbagged with the news that he may have a daughter. Danika Yarosh (Heroes Reborn) played Samatha well and there were moments to be had as the hard man struggled to impose control over a teenager BUT it was cliched to boot.

Cobie Smulders (Yes, she does. What?!) wasn’t too bad as Turner. It was good to see the How I Met Your Mother star finally get a meatier role. A shame that her character was too much like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’s Maria Hill. She just tried to out-Reacher Reacher for the majority of the film BUT it just didn’t work.

The machismo talk between the pair did spark a snappy little argument on who would protect Samantha. Reacher telling Turner to stay behind on the grounds of being a woman. In a different film, this could have been something BUT it came off hammy and poorly timed.

Even the story line didn’t offer that much. I actually got lost at one point as Reacher and co found a lead out of nowhere BUT it was merely another excuse for another drawn out ultra-violent punch up.

And after all that mystery and build up, the reveal was so disappointing and predictable. Another generic thriller with a bog standard twist. Cruise did his best with the part BUT I have to agree with my mate who said that Reacher has become nothing more than an Ethan Hunt spin-off series.

It wasn’t bad by any means. If you’re in the mood for a frantic shoot em up to kill the time, then give it a go. Just don’t expect too much.

2.5/5

*NEW* THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN REVIEW *NEW*

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I’ll think I’ll wait for the next train.

A slow burning thriller that (with a little perseverance) delivered a decent pay-off.

A divorcee (Emily Blunt) becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shock waves throughout her life.

Based on the bestselling novel . . . How many more times are Hollywood going to scrape the barrel? I haven’t had the pleasure of reading the Paula Hawkins novel BUT have been told on good authority (by my Mum and Aunt who may or may not be scouting through this review) that it stayed pretty close to its source material.

The slow burning pace and flicking about subdued my griping. The fractured time frame spanning from six months to the present kept things interesting. Mainly because I had no idea what was going on.

BUT that was the main appeal for me as we were told tidbits of a disjointed story through an unreliable narrator; struggling alcoholic Rachel. Emily Blunt was brilliant as the plastered protagonist. You really felt for the broken beauty. Her fascination with a house, that the line stops by every day, soon borderlines on obsession.

It felt like a noir flick with all the shady characters; Rachel drinking to forget, the alluring but flawed Haley Bennett’s (The Magnificent Seven remake) fooling around and manipulating men to her own devices and Rebecca Ferguson’s (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) depressed housewife not quite living the perfect life.

The different viewpoints from the three ladies left me trying to decipher whose story to believe. You could feel your empathy changing towards each character as we delved further into their pasts. BUT things reached boiling point when Rachel woke up (from another drunk train ride) covered in blood with no recollection of the night before.

If anything, The Girl on the Train was very much in the same vein as Before I Go To Sleep (Another recommended thriller) with Rachel’s drunken blackouts and inability to piece anything together plummeting her into a dangerous pursuit for the truth. Unwittingly setting herself up as the prime suspect in a murder case.

That’s not to say there weren’t enough red herrings. The small supporting cast played the parts perfectly. It was good to see Luke Evans play something other than a panto villain in a horror flick or Fast and Furious movie. He played Megan’s brooding and possessive husband well.

I was also impressed to see Alison Janney play a straight role as Detective Riley. Especially after her turn in that terrible sitcom Mom. Laura Prepon (Orange is The New Black) didn’t do a bad turn as Rachel’s supportive friend Cathy. Justin Theroux (The Leftovers) was a solid lead as Rachel’s ex Tom. Reluctant to completely shut Rachel out from his life.

I was disappointed that Phoebe from Friends (Lisa Kudrow) had such a small and dismal role. Anyone could played her. The same could be said for Bodhi from Point Break (Edgar Ramirez) as the sulky therapist who desperately tried to evade Megan’s flirtatious advances.

The unravelling was intriguing enough BUT the pace did tend to meander along, killing a good portion of the momentum, and the endless flashbacks soon became very repetitive. Especially the memory flashes to that blasted tunnel! We kept being shown the same images with no new information or progress.

However, once things began to piece together, the final 20 minutes was compelling and nail biting. Some will argue that with only a small number of characters; there are only so many possible outcomes. BUT I can honestly say I didn’t call the twist and even if people sussed it early, the aftermath was still pretty damn tense with a couple of revelations along the way.

Whether that rule will apply for fans of the book is another story. The Da Vinci Code did everything to the letter and I was bored to tears watching the film adaptation. Only because I knew everything that was going to happen. BUT the first two Harry Potter films on the other hand 👌🏻

I didn’t go in expecting much and came out pleasantly surprised.

A good cast, aided with some great suspense, did just enough to drudge through the lengthy pace and stuttering flashbacks to make this one to watch.

3/5