*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)

*NEW* THE BEST AND WORST FILMS OF 2016 REVIEW *NEW*

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First thing’s first, HAPPY NEW YEAR! A BIG THANK YOU (Look, it’s in CAPITALS) for all the views, likes and comments. You guys are alright.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION? See more movies obviously.

Nah. Try and read more of your awesome posts!

December was a poor month for my movie viewing. Work and blah blah blah didn’t give me much time so I have yet to see Rogue One. I know, SACRILEGE. Call yourself a film critic.

I like to be awkward when picking movies. My criteria is simple. Picking 10 films I saw in 2016. So there may be a couple that you may argue are technically speaking 2015. In the words of Donnie Brasco, forget about it.

I look for films that surprised, entertained and engaged me. There have been so many films that have put me to sleep or have had me on my phone already complaining about said film before it’s even finished (Pretty much my criteria for worst films).

I picked the films that made an impression or made me laugh, cry or think. I’ve provided links for my reviews if you want a complete breakdown of my thoughts.

 

MY TOP 10 FILMS OF 2016

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It’s great when you go into a cinema expecting nothing and get rewarded with a gritty slow burning and well acted Texan noir thriller.

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/09/24/new-hell-or-high-water-review-new/

 

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Vikander and Fassbender brought their fiery chemistry to ignite this wonderfully heart rending affair.

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/new-the-light-be…ceans-review-new/

 

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Strange, hypnotic, gripping. After all the hype, I was afraid this wouldn’t deliver. BUT oh boy, did it!

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/11/30/new-nocturnal-animals-review-new/

 

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So good that I haven’t done a review yet. I’m working on it. The Return of the King (Ba-dum-tsssh). Mortensen was superb as the father devoted to raising his six kids in the wilderness. Easygoing feel good drama.

 

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Probably one of the best Marvel movies going!

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/new-captain-amer…l-war-review-new/

 

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QT is back with a tense and ultra-violent Western. It’s everything you could expect from the Pulp Fiction director and I loved every minute.

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/new-the-hateful-eight-review-new/

 

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Larson deserved the Oscar for her stellar performance.

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/new-room-review-new-2/

 

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Hard hitting, shocking and brilliantly acted. A must watch.

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/new-spotlight-review-new/

 

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Crowe, Gosling, Black. You can’t go wrong. My review might be a little picky BUT I had the pleasure of watching this again and enjoyed it so much more.

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/new-the-nice-guys-review-new/

 

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I was torn between this and Bridget Jones’s Baby (I know. Whaaattt?! It was actually pretty good) BUT I went for the HP spin-off. Redmayne was brilliant and Rowling was able to expand on the ever-growing world that has entertained me for the last decade.

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/new-fantastic-be…em-3d-review-new/

 

MY TOP 10 WORST FILMS OF 2016

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Absolutely bloody dreadful. Jennifer Saunders sold out with this shambolic effort. A review will turn up eventually. BUT trust me, it’s bad. And I was a fan.

 

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As much as I love Natalie Dormer, I did not love her in this.

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/new-the-forest-review-new/

 

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That creepy atmosphere couldn’t hide what was a drawn out and mind numbing disappointment. Review to follow.

 

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This unnecessary reboot was doomed from the start!

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/new-dads-army-review-new/

 

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I remember rushing to the cinema wondering why it was only on for 4 days. I soon find out the answer. Yikes!

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/new-the-5th-wave-review-new/

 

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The anger. I’m sure I used a fair amount of expletives on Twitter to express my feelings on this feeble effort.

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/new-now-you-see-me-2-review-new/

 

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The horror, the horror! I hated the first one and for the first 20 minutes of this, I was almost about to eat my own words BUT then it got worse.

 

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I was so excited to see this and by the end, I wondered why they brought him back. It must have been for the money because it wasn’t for the plot and character development. Bourne seemed to know less than he did before. I think I fell asleep at one point. Shame.

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/08/26/new-jason-bourne-review-new/

 

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As much as I loved watching Lily James kicking zombie ass in a corset, the tone was all over the place. It failed to be scary or funny and was dreadfully dull. So dull it put me off reviewing the thing.

Well, that’s my excuse anyway.

 

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A shame that this is going to be one of Anton Yelchin’s last efforts. This failed to grab me even with Captain Picard playing a Neo-Nazi.

https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/new-green-room-review-new/

 

And so concludes my mini-review of 2016. I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the entries this year.

Disappointing comic book yarns (*Cough* Batman Vs Superman *Cough* Suicide Squad *Cough*)

The reboots, the remakes (Point Break), the unnecessary sequels (The Mechanic: Resurrection).

Let’s hope 2017 will bring us a little more joy and originality, eh?

 

*NEW* ARRIVAL REVIEW *NEW*

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The next Interstellar. Brilliant . . . if you liked that movie.

Unfortunately, I didn’t. You can see where I’m heading with this.

A linguist (Amy Adams) is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

The endless Twitter trends, the crazy hype train. I was actually excited to see what the man who brought us Prisoners could deliver.

I’m not going to lie. By the time the credits rolled, I was left feeling a little disappointed.

An emotionally charged opening sequence (that rivalled Up) plucked on the heartstrings as we followed Louise’s (Adams – Nocturnal Animals) relationship with her daughter over the blossoming years. Right up to her swift and tragic illness.

Bleak, heartbreaking and we hadn’t even got to the aliens yet. The pace was left to simmer away and I was happy to allow the bubbling tension and theorising develop as Louise was recruited by Weber (Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland) after 12 strange objects descended from the sky.

Adams was superb and delivered a sterling turn. She really carried the film for me.

I wish more was made out of the supporting cast. Whitaker disappeared into the background far too much and Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire) was completely wasted in his role as the shady Agent Halpern. Just another generic government agent.

The only other actor to make a memorable impression was Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker). His quips and chemistry with Adams was a much needed presence as the pair worked together to assess whether our new visitors were friend or foe.

I was actually quite impressed by how writers Eric Heisserer and Ted Chiang thought up such a situation. It was almost believable in a way if a superior race were to suddenly appear and try to communicate in an indecipherable and unknown language.

The special effects and CGI on the strange tentacly guests were fantastic. The motion capture methods to create their movements was impressive. They reminded me a little of the jellyfish things from Monsters.

The cryptography and puzzle solving as Louise and co. tried to form a dialogue was intriguing enough BUT by the 60 minute marker, I could feel my patience wading. My interest lost. I didn’t even mind that we hadn’t received any answers or real questions to ask the sinister looking squid things.

BUT the pace really did drag and it was like pulling teeth out to get anywhere. The constant flashbacks to Louise’s daughter and bizarre dream sequences (at first haunting and hypnotic) soon irritated and numbed me into a mini-coma.

Thankfully as the growing tension and civil unrest across the world forced the UN to make a (predictable) decision, I was soon pulled back in.

The paranoia and suspense finally going somewhere with the military desperate to scratch those itchy trigger fingers.

The rising insurgence among the ranks. The hidden agendas from the international compatriots. The world in arrears. If anything, this was all too realistic with China and Russia refusing to share information and desperate to cut ties and eradicate this unknown presence.

All spurned on from one word (Finally deciphered) as “WEAPON”. A reference? A threat? A simple misinterpretation from the linguistic team?

The final 20 minutes was frantic, thrilling and . . . unexpected BUT rewarding?

I won’t say too much about the ending. BUT I will admit that I’m NOT the biggest sci-fi fan. Blade Runner, Alien, Twelve Monkeys, Looper; sign me up. Anything else . . . meh. Once I heard the phrase, “non-linear time difference”, the wind had been knocked out of my sails.

Like Interstellar, Arrival delivered a cleverly woven ending with time paradoxes and hidden meanings galore.

I was afraid that I missed something. I checked the forums and discussed theories and realised I had it sussed the first time. BUT for all the hype and twists and turns, it just didn’t grab me. I wasn’t caught up in it as much as I hoped.

It was good BUT . . . a defining science fiction film? 5/5? Film of the year? I don’t think I’ll remember this by next month.

Maybe it was a case of hype hindering rather than helping. I felt the same for Sicario. Wondering if people had never seen a movie about the underbelly of the Mexican border before.

If Adams wasn’t at the helm, I don’t think my interest would have been grabbed at all. I felt for her character, shared in her grief and frustration as the ever-impending deadline pressed on.

I didn’t hate it. There were genuine moments of suspense and tension. I don’t know how Bradford Young’s grainy cinematography could make a scene look so bleak and beautiful at the same time.

Johann Johannsson’s musical score was sublime. It was perfectly composed and really heightened the mood and emotion of the scenes. Especially in the closing moments.

A clever, well acted, if muddled and drawn out affair for me. It certainly left for food for thought BUT one to remember?

I’ll leave that to you.

3/5

*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)