THE BOY NEXT DOOR REVIEW

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The horror, the horror!

Oh boy. NEXT!

1 star for J-Lo. 1 for the laughs.

I think this film proved only one thing. J-Lo is still looking mighty fine at 45.

Anyway, critical cap back on.

I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with . . . nothing.

To be honest,  all the slating on IMDb really did make me dread this.

It was watchable. BUT oh so laughable.

My doubts crept in from the badly edited and poorly dubbed flashback opening sequence that quickly summed up that John Corbett (Sex and the City) had been cheating on Jenny from the Block.

Director Rob Cohen certainly tried his best to skim through all the predictable back story guff to get to the juicy stuff BUT by doing so made it even cornier and naffer!

Seriously it rushed along too much that you couldn’t really take it seriously.

I certainly wasn’t bored. BUT it felt like someone was fast forwarding one of those late night TV movie thrillers.

Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies) was looking rough. Bearing in mind she is only two years older than Jen.

However, she manages to make as memorable a turn as she can as J-Lo’s BFF.

Ryan Guzman’s entrance (Step Up: All In) was corny as hell.

A frustrated J-Lo struggling with a broken garage door. The door looks set to crush our dozy and ill fated heroine.

Cue handsome muscle bound stranger. Insufferable drooling and cringeworthy dialogue.

It made me laugh that J-Lo’s character lets her son go off with said stranger without asking any real questions until he is gone. Nice one, Mom.

Lopez and Guzman don’t have bad chemistry BUT the poor set up and execution  felt like something you would expect to see in a certain adult movie.

The film does its best to zip along through the predictable soapy elements.

Guzman plays the mysterious and charismatic boy next door quite well.

However, we have to chug through the endless staring and checking each other out.

J-Lo biting her top lip. Guzman walking around any house and lawn in stereotypical greased up mechanic gear, white t-shirt or no shirt. Bleurgh.

The inevitable bonding between Claire (Lopez) and Noah (Guzman) over little things was so bad. Seriously their conversation over literature was unbelievably cheesy.

And then the son goes away with dear old dad for the weekend and while the cats away, you get the picture.

The leads deliver a raunchy encounter. BUT then the film takes a predictable turn. And one that didn’t quite come off that well.

The premise is a MTV take on Fatal Attraction.

BUT that’s the rub. Fatal Attraction was slow burning, tense, suspenseful. The ending . . . wow!

This was just utterly bonkers.

Claire instantly regrets the one night stand while Noah has other plans.

His sudden change in behaviour was too quick. Too volatile.

The film had a chance to be a slow burning thriller BUT the writer and director couldn’t be that bothered with the build up.

The little mind games were watchable enough.

Corbett’s love cheat trying to get back with the family. Noah dropping suggestive one liners. Seriously, the “I love your mother’s cookies” and “we got pretty wet last night” (Implying the storm) felt like expired American Pie gags.

The games soon crank up to 11 within a matter of a few scenes. Too sporadic. Fast, frantic and violent.

BUT it always felt and looked like nothing more than a bad B-movie that you wouldn’t expect to see on the big screen.

I have seen a lot worse. This at least breezed through and didn’t infuriate me. It was just funny for all the wrong reasons.

I mean, the allergy scene with Claire’s son (Ian Nelson)? Hardly spoilers. Noah goads him into having a fit. BUT Guzman’s reactions were so OTT.

You actually couldn’t work out if that was an accident or planned?

The music was silly. It really didn’t help add any tension. In fact it killed what little Cohen mustered.

You could write a checklist of things that Noah will do to spite Claire and tick them off while watching.

The sneaking around Noah’s house was a little tense. That was until Claire’s neighbour walked in. A scream off. A nervous knife wielding J-Lo hiding in her kitchen.

The son’s reaction when he walks in on a screaming J-Lo. (No, not like that). Priceless. “Hey Mom, what’s with the knife?”

The explosive finale was relentless and incredibly violent. It’s a shame that it just ends so abruptly. No, seriously. It just ends. Job done.

Rob Cohen does his best with a B movie. Which doesn’t say a lot. Yes, he directed XXX and The Fast and The Furious but he was also the guy that brought us Stealth, The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and Alex Cross. Yeah . . .

It’s OTT, corny and ridiculous. If you want a laugh or something to “hate watch”, then I give you The Boy Next Door.

J-Lo does her best and her acting isn’t that bad. In comparison to Gigli, well . . .

It would be nice to see her with a good script. If she still acts like this, then I will throw in the towel.

It’s watchable for all the bad rap it got.

BUT it’s still pretty bad.

2/5

EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS REVIEW

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Exoduzzzzz. Basically the Dark Prince of Egypt. No singing, a whole lot darker and a whole lot longer.  A mess. A beautifully shot one but a mess all the same.

So what’s it all about? (For those who don’t know) The defiant leader Moses (Christian Bale) rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.

Another example of the ever-increasing decline of a great director.

Beautifully shot (with a talented cast) BUT overlong, drawn out and dreadfully dull. The Counsellor, Prometheus and now Exodus.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to take on the role of Moses. Bale brings his gruffly angry gravitas to the role BUT despite his best efforts, his performance was a little underwhelming.

I understand that there has been a backlash against this movie. To be honest, I gave up on Hollywood attempting any accuracy or authenticity on anything. Let alone the Bible.

Apparently, self-tanning solves the whitewashing issue that Hollywood have failed to resolve for the last 50 years.

Bale and Edgerton worked well together and made a good pairing when they got to be in the same scene. Edgerton (Warrior) was an excellent Ramses when he was allowed to act. Can you see where I’m going with this?

The first 30 minutes zipped along and was quite watchable. The scope and design was breathtaking. Captured perfectly by (regular Scott stalwart) Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography.

This time around, Moses is not just an Egyptian prince but a general trained in the art of war. Cue biblical battle sequences . . . for five minutes. The little action we got was delivered through tragically jittery camera work. My eyes struggled to adjust to the 3D and the huge numbers of extras. I couldn’t focus on any one set piece.

The 3D is a waste of time. Apart from a few arrows and blades flying here and there and seeing some teeny tiny seagulls soar above the waves, it barely appears in the 150 minutes and doesn’t justify the extra costs.

The battle sequence soon corrected itself but after that . . . Nothing. We are left with mindless exposition, delivered by stocky characters for another hour and a bit.

John Turturro was probably one of the main supporting characters that made an impression as Egyptian pharaoh Seti.

BUT that was mainly because I thought it was a bit strange that he would play the father figure. He didn’t look any older than the pair. However, I Googled Turturro and discovered he is actually 17 years older than them I don’t normally go on continuity quips but the lumbering pace gave me time to do some research.

Ben Mendelsohn stood out for me more. I couldn’t believe it was him after all the hard man roles in Starred Up and Black Sea. He was very good as the weasly and overtly camp Viceroy Hegep.

Sigourney Weaver, on the other hand, was wasted in her role. She brought her stone faced pallor to the character and maybe had one bitchy moment but apart from that, anyone could have played her! Shame.

As Moses inevitably found out the truth about his upbringing and is exiled for it rather hastily; the film withers away as did my interest.

Agonisingly slow. I really felt like I was stranded in a desert. Waiting for a decent character. A bit of plot. Something. Instead I have Moses wandering about. Slaying a random person here and there (For no reason). Marrying the lovely Maria Valverde. Promising not to leave her. Leaving her to free “his people”. After talking to a burning bush. Come again?

I’m not going to pick at the biblical story too much. The bush always did test me BUT then to have the messenger of God appear in the form of an 11 year old boy named Malak (Isaac Andrews) took the biscuit.

Moses’ conversations with Malak should have been dramatic affairs. Heated debates questioning the morals and ethics behind God’s plan to liberate the slaves. BUT all I got was Batman yelling angrily at a little boy for 20 minutes.

Andrews did his best but he seemed to struggle with some of the bigger chunks of dialogue and didn’t really have the conviction to carry it.

It didn’t help that only Moses can see Malak. So every time Aaron Paul’s Joshua checked on Moses, he could only see Bale losing his rag at a rock. That’s right, Jessie from Breaking Bad. Such a bland character. He nailed the confused slave look well. It was comical.

The plagues certainly got things moving. The visual effects were incredible, especially with the locusts, frogs and crocodiles. Wait, what?

Crocodiles. You read that, right? I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in the bible. It was certainly a visceral and dark moment. The carnage was relentless. The Nile turning into one blood soaked pool. Haunting.

Indira Varma (Game of Thrones) and Ewan Bremner (Trainspotting) played the High Priestess and Expert as well as they could. The fact their characters are given such wonderful titles said it all.

Their theorizing about what made the plagues happen was interesting at first BUT got irritating in an instant.

I felt that Scott (and the cast) went through the motions with the story. I mean at least Darren Aronofsky tried to do something different with Noah. Granted, it didn’t really work and did cause a bit of a stir but it was certainly more interesting than this.

I mean between Bale and Scott, they made Moses appear like a schizophrenic. Talking to inanimate objects one second. Flying off the handle the next. What made me laugh is that the slaves constantly question his leadership and yet when the shit hits the fan, they are screaming for Moses to tell them what to do.

The pace could have been cut down by an hour and been stronger for it. It hasn’t added anything new to the story or re-imagined it in any capacity. Scott didn’t even bother showing Moses unveil the Ten Commandments after all the build up.

The parting of the Red Sea was a visual feast for the eyes. A frenetic finish to a flawed flop.

If there was to be a re-telling of a Bible story, why didn’t Hollywood take on a story that hadn’t had numerous films before it? Numerous films that were much, much better.

God have mercy on this film. The special effects and set pieces were breathtaking but the lifeless characters and mechanical story telling left me yawning.

2.5/5

UNBROKEN REVIEW

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This didn’t break my top movies list BUT there is still an engaging account of one’s man incredible story.

So what’s it all about? After a near-fatal plane crash in WW2, Olympian Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

Angelina Jolie takes the directing seat again and delivers a riveting (if overlong) re-telling of fear, hardship and endurance.

O’Connell has certainly cracked the big leagues and with a performance like this, he will continue to do so. It’s great to see the transition he has made since his role as Cook in Skins. His accent seemed a little muddled in the opening sequence but that soon subsided as the film continued.

The main thing I had to get over with was his badly dyed hair.

The opening air battle sequence certainly got things going. It was fast, frantic and . . . really loud. A good action set piece.

In between the air battles, the film flicks back and forth showing Zamperini’s childhood. A little hoodlum that refused to back down but was heading down the wrong path.

That was until his brother drew Louis’ attention to the track team. Their relationship was captured perfectly. Both sets of actors who played young and (older) Louis and Pete were very good.

To be honest, I wanted more of that. It seemed to flash through Zamperini’s childhood and Olympic campaign a little too quickly. I mean arguably it was just right. It wasn’t too corny and certainly didn’t linger too much.

The Olympic race may have been predictable for those who know about Zamperini. Unfortunately I didn’t know a thing. A mistake now amended. BUT you were still rooting for him. A typical underdog story. A promising talent . . . that is until the war.

The flashbacks subside when Zamperini is left stranded on a lifeboat with two of his comrades; Domhnall Green (About Time) and Finn Wittrock (Noah). Green had an impeccable accent and played the role very well. Another up and coming star to keep an eye on.

The ocean raft scenes were tense. The shark fins swarming around their prey. If not the sharks, it was the hunger, the blistering heat or the very fear that the plane you’re trying to flag down is the enemy. The threat of death ever constant.

The trio were fantastic and the first hour or so, I was engrossed in their struggle. Watching them as they tried to hunt and eat whatever they could to survive. There was one moment that rivalled Jaws in the scare factor.

Unexpected for the cinema spectator next to me (Mum) who nearly elbowed me in the face. Certainly got the pulse racing.

I couldn’t imagine being in a situation like that. BUT for 47 days! Unbelievable.

And if that wasn’t enough, the soldiers are then captured by the enemy and sent to a Japanese POW camp under the horrific treatment of Wantanabe or The Bird. The Bird because he sees all.

Takamara Ishihara was outstanding as Wantanabe. A sterling debut performance. I expect to see more from him. Hopefully not typecast as the bad guy but he played the part so well.

Zamperini’s treatment was tough viewing. The only problem is that the second half of this 137 minute length is literally just watching him being beaten endlessly with kendo sticks and by his own comrades.

I say, own comrades. They were all ordered to punch Zamperini in the face or let their injured face more torture. Harrowing stuff.

I hate to say this but once you’ve seen Louis being beaten about for five minutes, you realise there isn’t much else.

There were a couple of actors that popped up. Jai Courtney (Divergent), Luke Treadaway (Clash of the Titans) and Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) did as well as they could but their characters were so far in the background that it was hard to pull them out of it to make more memorable impressions.

The emphasis was always going to be on Zamperini. I understand that this is his experience but the length didn’t justify the means. The punching scene was mental. If it is true and not exaggerated for the film, how did that man survive?

The radio broadcast sequence was interesting as Zamperini is bribed by his captors. Good food and clean living for his denouncement of America and their involvement in the war.

BUT of course, this man will not be broken. There were moments where I was rooting for him, especially in his “crucifixion”. Forced to lift a railway sleeper above his head. If dropped, he would be shot.

However, I felt that it was all a little too similar to The Railway Man that was released last year. It may be unfair to compare (Did that rhyme? Totally rhymed) but Unbroken did fall slightly short.

Jolie wasn’t afraid to show both sides at their worst. As the prisoners are transferred from one camp to another, they are forced to walk through a town that had been destroyed by the American B-bombers.

There were some revelations in the closing minutes. But it would have been nicer to see them in the film than just read about it. The fact we didn’t know what had happened to Zamperini’s comrades after they were sent to different POW camps until the end credits was a little disappointing.

But it was still a fitting and uplifting footnote to a dreadfully visceral and tough journey.

Certainly worth a gander and O’Connell’s performance cannot be broken.

BUT the pace and the story line could have been a little bit more.

3/5

NOAH REVIEW

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Woah . . . what the hell did I just watch? This shit just got BIBLICAL. Stupid one liners aside, a rather strange viewing experience. One that I’m not sure whether I enjoyed. Arguably Hollywood taking on the Bible is always going to get mixed results. However, that is not always the case. Examples such as Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, The Prince of Egypt (what? Don’t judge me) are exceptions to the rule. Now credits where it’s due. The film excels with its special effects and the cast do their best with the material at hand. Now understandably that material is the Bible. Now I’ll be looking at this primarily as a film text. I’m not an atheist nor am I a believer as such. To be honest, I thought both the idea of a world created by a “Creator” and an entire universe created by a “big bang” because a thing called science said it was so, equally ridiculous. But hey everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

I digress. However, the film is full of questionable plot holes that intentionally and unintentionally pokes holes at the Old Testament itself. Now be warned there will be SPOILERS! Not the Bible bits, certain film sequences. I will try and be as cryptic as possible and as objective. Now obviously the premise we all know, in a world ravaged of sin, Noah is given a divine mission: to build an Ark to save creation from the coming flood. The opening sets up the background of the origin story of . . . us, really. Most of it, I knew. Other parts I had forgotten. Russell Crowe is a powerhouse actor and he provides a stellar performance. My main quip is his representation. Now Darren Aronofsky’s previous works have always been . . . out there. Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The (mind numbing) Fountain, and the more mainstream but surprisingly entertaining Black Swan. Aronofsky has pretty much made Noah as mainstream as possible. However, he transforms a man torn between fulfilling his duty to his Creator and the livelihood of his own family, into a demented maniac hell bent on achieving all means regardless.

Even more bizarrely, while the world is ravaged with sin, yadda yadda, a group of fallen angels are left to roam the rocky desolate landscapes. Now this part I was not aware of. The fallen angels are brilliantly designed, even if they look like Sloth from the Goonies had mated with one of the rock things from the Never Ending Story. And I couldn’t believe the talented voice cast behind them; Nick Nolte, Mark “Breaking Bad Tio Salamanca” Margolis and Kevin Durand (Real Steel and LOST). The crazy fight sequences between them and the monstrous human race desperate to board the Ark was entertaining if completely ridiculous. Aronofsky managed to convey more emotion and sympathy out of them than a number of the cast. Sir Anthony Hopkins manages to make a memorable impression in the limited screen time of the minor role of Methusaleh. It did have me pondering if Noah was allowed to save his family, why not his grandfather? Punishment for not being able to get the human race to conform and follow the righteous path? However, he was bonkers and wondered off a lot. To be honest, the supporting cast were strangely passive until the hour mark. The film was very much on the shoulders of Crowe. It was only when the humans in the area finally caught wind (come on, we’re better than that) of the Ark that things pick up, making for a tense, racy, riotous sequence. The visual CGI with the animals and the infamous flood are fantastic.

Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet) was highly unmemorable and passive as Shem. Logan Lerman (Perks of a Wallflower) and fellow co-star the beautiful Hermione, I mean, Emma Watson played their parts well and when given the time to shine, delivered solid performances. Jennifer Connolly (Labyrinth, always) reunites with Crowe (A Beautiful Mind) and manages to make a nothingy character stand out, especially in one tense if undeniably bizarre sequence that understandably might be where the controversy is coming from. The pair work well but fail to reignite that Beautiful Mind spark. Ray Winstone, I thought, was wonderfully gritty and gruesome as self proclaimed King Tubal-cain. Now it’s all down to how much of a Winstone fan you are. But I was pleasantly surprised and he stole the scene every time. For once, his grizzly growling was used to his strength. If you want to show the humans as nasty pieces of work, Winstone san. Once the Ark ascends, it all gets a little slow and drawn out. A slow burning if entertaining hour does not a good film make. And after two hours this film does test your resolve, if not for a tense finale.

NOW SPOILER TIME! AVOID IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING WATCHING THIS MOVIE! FOR THOSE WHO AREN’T FUSSED OR HAVE SEEN IT. CONTINUE READING THIS PARAGRAPH. Noah does everything to the letter for the Lord. He saves the animals and his family have the unexpected blessing that their son’s (well I would have assumed) wife is pregnant. Fantastic. Oh no, no. no. The human race must be no more. Which means the baby can be no more. If it is a boy, no probs. Can’t reproduce. If a girl, watch out. A compassionate hero becomes a demented mad man with one click of a finger. Unexpected? Yup. Watchable. Strangely so. Necessary? Ah, there’s the rub. Cue the time on the Ark as we wait nine months for the child to be born. Ray Winstone’s sneaky stowaway king plotting revenge for nine months? How did no one know he was on there? Also they made a herb that could knock out animals, how come it didn’t knock them out? A herb that would make them sleep for nine months? Without food or water? I mean, it’s a film but surely they could have had another trippy dream sequence in which the Lord told Noah to use said herb. I don’t know.

Visually ambitious, brilliantly acted, if drawn out, OTT, and questionably full of holes. However, this ark should manages to stay afloat, just. 3/5

Currently ranks #65 out of 161