*NEW* READY PLAYER ONE REVIEW *NEW*

Spielberg is back baby!

But bigger and better?

When the creator of a virtual reality world (Mark Rylance – The BFG) called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.

An enjoyable romp. The man still knows how to deliver a blockbuster. Fantastic visuals, an entertaining premise, good fun BUT . . . NOT without its flaws.

We follow Tye Sheridan’s Wade (X-Men: Apocalypse) as he tries to break away from the hum drum life of “The Stacks”. A poverty stricken district constructed of caravans piled on top of each other.

Those caravans. Seriously, the Jenga style structure triggered my vertigo.

A futuristic cityscape set in the 2040s where people are more interested in escaping to the OASIS and their avatars than worry about the ever-expanding and overpopulated towns. A fitting statement if ever there was one.

BUT at that same stroke, Ready Player One really struck home with the gamer nerd in me and that sense of community and escapism that gaming can offer. A bit like the movie itself.

The visual effects were outstanding. The only problem was that there was so much going in one frame that there was TOO much going on. A mad car chase sequence hit me like a rainbow-infused punch. The colours, the energy. It was chaotic.

There was King Kong, Robocop, the Jurassic Park T-Rex. I didn’t know if I was still supposed to be watching Wade – Sorry, “Parzival” (His alias) razzing around in a DeLorean or not?

The puzzle solving was intriguing enough as Wave delved into the recesses of his childhood hero Halliday’s memories for clues to unlock another key to the OASIS. All archived in a library. Seriously, there wasn’t enough Mark Rylance. The Wayne World’s inventor was brilliant.

There was one level of the game that involved one of my favourite movies. The in-jokes and metatextual references had me in stitches. Obviously the rest of the audience weren’t fans as I laughed out loud at as “Parzival”‘s partner in crime, H unsuspectingly wondered into a certain room *cough* Room 237 *cough*

That sequence alone ticked all the boxes for me.

Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) was brilliant as Art3mis/Samantha. She had great chemistry with Sheridan and they madBe a great duo. That dance-off shouldn’t have worked as well as it did.

Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) was the epitome of a slimy corporate exec BUT despite his best efforts and Thanos-inspired avatar, I found him a little weak. And for a man hell bent on taking over the cyber world, he wasn’t very clued up on password protection.

I was disappointed at the lack of T.J. Miller. I know the guy has caused a bit of controversy in the press but the Silicon Valley star knows how to steal the show as Mendelsohn’s minion, I-R0K.

I was annoyed that we only saw his avatar. Bearing in mind that we got to see Wade’s band of loveable rogues.

The detail on the avatars was incredible; meshing in the actors traits and facial expressions perfectly.

NOW I’ve never read the book. I was only aware from the heavy PR that RPO revolved around teenage gamers fanboying over the 80s and tech. Despite the amazing visuals, endless 80s references and zippy pace, the film lost momentum as its reached it’s super corny finale.

It was far too schmaltzy and OTT for my liking. Tye Sheridan delivering a nauseating speech in leather-clad spandex? Meh. The Iron flippin’ Giant evaporating endless cannon fodder?! HELL YES! (What?!)

Come on, that is kinda cool.

BUT what did I expect? These are kid gamers taking on the world. If you keep that in mind, you might not be as disappointed by the finale as I was.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still riveting, engaging and filled with all sorts of nostalgia BUT the end game was a little rushed and tacky.

This won’t top Spielberg’s greats BUT this wasn’t his worst by a country mile.

Either way, it’s worth a watch at any cost.

3/5

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*NEW* ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL REVIEW *NEW*

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A challenging dramedy in more ways than one. A promising cast reprieve a surprisingly patchy affair.

High schooler Greg (Thomas Mann), who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl (RJ Cryler), finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate (Olivia Cooke) who has just been diagnosed with cancer.

I’m not going to lie. I was left wanting and a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s highly watchable BUT the tone and pace was all over the place.

From the strange opening sequence, I was scratching my head. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with the Jesse Andrews novel. This film has certainly made me want to seek it out. Just to see if I was missing out on something.

The strange animation reminded me of a Wes Anderson pic. Never a bad thing. We watch as an animated Greg chomps spaghetti while the “hot girl from Pussy Riot” serenades him by playing the harp. In a nutshell, we were being introduced to the quirky inner workings of Greg’s mind. The social outcast. The narrator of the story.

Very strange. BUT intriguing. We watch this crafty chameleon who does his best to blend in with all the social groups; the drama people, the goths, etc. Just enough to keep everyone at bay. I could relate to Greg in more ways than one. Hiding in a film fortress with his “work colleague” Earl.

Thomas Mann was very good as Greg and delivered the role with enough wit, charm and charisma. It made for easygoing viewing as we delved into Greg’s set up. Unable to call Earl a friend with the fear he might reject the label.

Once Cryler was given the opportunity to shine, he delivered. It took a while for Earl to make a mark. Reduced to muttering the word “titties” BUT once the film got going, they made a great duo.

You may remember Olivia Cooke from the hit show, Bates Motel. She was fantastic as Rachel. She delivered a sterling performance and worked well with Mann. The pair had great chemistry.

I loved the classic film references. The nods to François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard ticked all the boxes for the cinephile in me. The funny play on titles was a nice touch. A Sockwork Orange being a particular highlight.

The film video segments reminded me very much of Be Kind Rewind. A surreal mish mesh of Gondry meets Anderson. Low budget indie madness. BUT unfortunately like it’s counterpart, it seemed to suffer from the same flaws.

The tone was very testing. Charming and funny in one instant with Greg’s verbal diarrhea inevitably putting him into more awkward situations and then dreadfully slow and dark the next. Most notably when Rachel’s condition deteriorates.

There’s no easy way to capture an illness and the effects. It was a testing cross examination as we see Rachel’s smile and health fade. Greg doing everything he can to try and keep things quirky and light.

The hour marker certainly took the easygoing pace down a notch as tempers flared and decisions were made. It was acted well and made for engaging drama in parts. BUT the pace hampered an intriguing piece.

What didn’t help was the fact that the little films took the attention away from the actual story between the three friends. I understand that the film making was Greg’s way of coping with life BUT it went on too long. And the final film the pair made for Rachel was a load of rubbish in my opinion.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon didn’t make full use of the fantastic supporting cast. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) didn’t do a bad job as the chilled history teacher. An incident involving the lads and some soup led to some funny moments.

Molly Shannon’s cougar making advances at the two young men was a mixed bag for me. I found the whole thing strangely uncomfortable. Supplying them with booze and flirting with Greg. Weird.

I wish there was more of Bobb’e J. Thompson as Earl’s brother, Derrick. And cudos to Karriem Sami who managed to make a memorable impression in 30 seconds as the limo driver. That’s all I’m saying on that one. Oh and the Hugh Jackman scene. Brilliant.

Connie Britton was wasted in her role as Greg’s Mom. I know that the parents were never to be the focal point of this piece. BUT with such talented actors portraying good characters, it would have been nice to seen more of them. She set Greg’s story in motion and then only reappeared in the final scenes.

Nick Offerman’s trippy tenured father was very hit and miss for me. Offering a cat to console Greg as he attempts to break bad news . . . Yes. Waffling on about obscure grub. NOT so much.

The closing moments made for tough viewing. Even for the cynic in me. It struck a lump in my throat as Greg struggles with school, life and the possibility of losing a friend he never expected to have.

I felt the final third got increasingly serious and killed the buzz that had helped zipped the film along. And the ending was quite abrupt for me. It just ended.

BUT luckily, good characters, great acting and good moments still make this one to watch. BUT the strange style and uneven pacing hampered something that could have been so much more.

3/5

OUIJA REVIEW

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I wish they could have used the Ouija board to summon something better.

The wait continues. Bar a few jumpy moments; another poorly written, schlocky horror film hits the big screen. Is it time that Hollywood give up the ghost(s)?

Unfortunately using a low budget amateur cast with up and coming newbies meant one thing. That this film made money. Which means . . . More of this horrific bilge to come.

So what’s it all about? A group of friends must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board.

Apparently, according to the studio release. I didn’t see anyone confronting their fears. Just running around aimlessly or screaming every 20 seconds (like the annoying spectator at the cinema).

The concept is hardly original but if executed properly, the possibilities are endless. If not? Well you get this.

I was really disappointed. It was the perfect platform for a virtually new and unknown cast to make a name for themselves.

It was great to see Olivia Cooke (Emma Decody from Bates Motel) get a leading role. Her supporting turn in The Quiet Ones gave me high hopes.

She does her best but her character is so flat and uninteresting. It feels like she is sleepwalking through the role. And at times she even sounds like it.

The characters were really unmemorable. I had honestly forgotten their names as soon as they appeared. I had to ask my mate who had no recollection either; merely “Bates Bird” and “that one eyed guy from Percy Jackson (Bradley Smith)”.

If not for the jumpy bits, this would have got a zero. For all my cynical meandering about the predictable checklist that this film churned through, there were several moments that got me good and proper.

It helped to have a ridiculously loud cinema sound system and a screaming spectator twitching every two minutes (No, it wasn’t us).

It took a good 40 minutes before things really got going. That’s half of the film. It felt longer than 89 minutes. The story felt like it was going through the motions.

Childhood friends play with Ouija board. Childhood friend decides to play it again. Dies. 30 minutes of dull dialogue with the gang moping around and grieving before finding said board and deciding to play it. Brilliant. NOT!

I don’t believe in the whole Ouija board thing. My brother did one before and felt that the scenes where they used the planchette (the little triangular board. I did my research. Not just strung together, you know) and asked the questions was creepy and quite accurate. To be honest, how could they get that bit wrong?

I don’t think writer/director Stiles White had seen the British equivalent Long Time Dead. That was a disaster BUT a damn sight better than this.

The characters hardly had my empathy but at least I wanted to see what happened to them. Once the Ouija stuff began, it was all the same old guff. Things moving in the background. Doors slamming. Oven hobs coming on (For some reason).

It was only as the film was ending where I got into it. It was racy, frantic and jumpy. The shadow moving on its own accord. The demonic child (Sierra Heuermann) and mother (Claudia Katz) fighting to claim victims. It finally seemed to be going somewhere. Only for it to end so abruptly and flatly that I felt like I wasted my time.

And of course; to add to my frustrations Ouija left it all open for . . . What do you know? Another installment.

Lin Shaye (Insidious) was the most memorable supporting character in the five minutes she was given. That doesn’t say a lot considering her character was unoriginal and derivative in the first place.

The wait goes on for a genuinely tense, atmospheric horror film.

Stocky, generic and bland character sleepwalk through a dull and predictable story line. If not for the jumpy scenes, I would have bailed out.

1.5/5

THE QUIET ONES REVIEW

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The Quite . . . Rubbish Ones, really. A real shame, a rebooted Hammer brings us a jumpy, if tragically predictable and disappointing affair.

With the inevitable tag line, “Based on actual events”, we follow an Oxford University professor and a team of students in the 1970s as they conduct an experiment on a young girl who is believed to be possessed with a demonic force. I had so much hope for this. To be honest, horror films of late have hit an all time low, in every aspect, but the main one being scares.  I was relieved (how wrong I was) when I heard this little demon was created by the producers of the Woman in Black. A genuine suspenseful film that told a story and had scares. I mean it wasn’t that scary but the tension and performances were fantastic.

I hoped with the charismatic Jared Harris (Mad Men) at the helm of this low budget British horror, there could be something but alas it was not to be. It’s not a complete write off. I felt Sam Claflin (Hunger Games: Catching Fire) was a very likeable lead as our conflicted hero. Olivia Cooke (you may remember her from the inaccurate but surprisingly watchable hit, Bates Motel) was fantastic as the vulnerable victim. You do actually care what happens to the pair. The opening half hour builds up the suspense and sets the premise quite well. The unexpected jump here and there kept me on my toes. It made me for watchable viewing. You felt for Cooke’s character as she is interrogated like a Guantanamo Bay victim; forced to stay awake with the endless droning of Slade. I mean, come on it’s bad enough at Christmas.

The sultry Erin Richards with her diva-ish antics is easy on the eyes but nothing else. In terms of story, there isn’t much of one and when plot points are revealed, it’s quite obvious and uninteresting, most notably *FLASH! SPOILER ALERT! SKIP PAST PARAGRAPH IF INTERESTED IN VIEWING* on the reveal of a former patient’s identity. All the build up and flicking back was merely a device to spew up some much needed scares. Where the pace went along quite well, it meandered by the hour marker. Harris is entertaining, if incredibly creepy as his intent to disclaim the supernatural pushes him to the brink. It inevitably occurs in one creepy house. It was nice to see the film try and recreate the old school horror but that is soon thrown out of the window in one scene as we get a handheld camera sequence. Really? I mean, okay, Claflin is carrying a big arse camera but the effect still reeks of Paranormal Activity. Come on, we’ve had a franchise of that. BE DIFFERENT!

There’s enough tension to get the cheeky nibble on your nails or excuse to look at your mate to see if they’re scared, while waiting for impending jump moment. However, it all builds up to the same old guff with the expected, but still makes you bloody jump, last second scare. Once it’s all done, you sit back and think it wasn’t that scary. Not going to be dashing in the house and flicking on lights. It’s been done to death time and time again. Need a break altogether from this genre. Wait for us to miss these or . . . learn from them and make something much better because I know we can. Come on. 2.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks #120 out of 162!