*NEW* THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI REVIEW *NEW*

Three sterling turns and an Oscar hopefully.

A mother (Frances McDormand) personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

A brooding country noir riddled with black comedy. If it wasn’t for all the profanity, you could have said it was a Fargo sequel.

Bold, brash and a little long in the tooth BUT a damn good watch all the same.

Funny how three billboards can cause so much trouble? Originally aimed at the local sheriff William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), one woman’s crusade for justice causes a stir among the community.

Frances McDormand is a brilliant actress. I knew exactly what she would bring to the table. That bitter Olive Kitteridge grit. Sharp tongued, outspoken, on the war path and not giving a damn who knows it. A powerhouse performance.

She stole every scene. You really felt for her. Her frosty reception with the town priest and her discussion on the definition of the word ‘culpable’ was worth an Oscar nod alone.

All aided by a sterling script, of course. Penned by none other than the In Bruges (Highly recommended) writer/director Martin McDonagh.

The fiery quick witted dialogue delivered that sinister comical edge as Mildred dealt with all sorts of unsavoury characters as the townspeople soon let their feelings known on the billboards. An awkward trip to the dentist made for tense viewing.

The pacing did test in places. Originally I felt the film slackened when McDormand wasn’t involved in the mix. A compliment to her performance. BUT it also allowed for some sterling turns from a highly talented supporting cast.

Woody Harrelson was excellent in the understated role of Willoughby. A man desperate to keep the peace BUT plagued by his own demons and the system he had sworn to protect. A tragic hero if ever there was one. A performance full of nuance that knocked me for six. Proof that the Cheers star can act.

I wanted more exchanges between the struggling sheriff and the militant Mildred. Despite her anger with the law, there was still respect between them.

Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) played the simple ad clerk Red Welby brilliantly. His run-ins with Mildred delivered several humourous encounters. Ol’ Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) was wasted in his small role (No pun intended). He did his best BUT then again, this wasn’t his story.

I hope Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea) isn’t going to be typecast in the grieving son role. He worked well with McDormand and I liked the fractured mother/son relationship. It was just a shame that he was pushed into the background. Especially after a heated “family reunion” with his deadbeat dad.

The uneven middle act left me wondering where this was all going. The tone jumped from moments of violent, foul mouthed mayhem to ones of tearful reflection and sorrow. BUT as much as I was getting frustrated, I still wanted to seek out the end game.

The always underrated Sam Rockwell nearly stole the show from McDormand. His character Deputy Dixon was a particular highlight. I loved the journey that this dimwitted racist country mama’s boy went through. A rollercoaster ride if ever there was one. I hated him, I laughed at him, laughed with him and by the end, I felt sorry for the poor schmuck.

The second half of the film took a much more sombre turn than I expected. Especially when we delved a little more into Mildred’s and Willoughby’s background. It turned an incredibly witty black comedy into so much more as everything came to a thrilling and heart rending climax.

The final act and the bittersweet ending spoke volumes as it tackled grief, anger, hate BUT most importantly forgiveness. It didn’t quite deliver what I expected BUT I was left smiling after experiencing this redemptive journey with Mildred and Dixon, in particular.

Something I haven’t felt with any film in a while.

Try not to buy into the awards hype too much and approach the film for what it is. A brilliantly acted and darkly comical tale of anger, grief and redemption.

3.5/5

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*NEW* PIXELS MOVIE REVIEW *NEW*

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Pick another movie.

When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games.

Has Adam Sandler given up? Has he finally succumbed to mediocrity and dire disasters? A lot of you will probably say, “Hasn’t he already?”

For those who do follow my reviews, I’ve declared my guilty fandom for Sandler movies numerous times. BUT even this feeble effort tested my patience. I can’t tell whether this was intentionally supposed to be this bad or just sloppy?

The opening really didn’t get things going with an 80s flashback to the World Video Game Championship with our young protagonist Brenner (Sandler) discovering his passion for arcade games and battling it out with his rival Eddie (Peter Dinklage).

It was cliched and unfunny. NOT even the cameo from Dan Ackroyd brought anything to the mix. I did get nostalgic when all the old game titles flashed across the screen; Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede. I think the only saving grace through this elongated sequence was Andrew Bambridge’s impression of Dinklage. It was spot on. It was easy to look the part but to sound like him and nail his expressions was something else.

And not before long, we’re back in the present. And it doesn’t get any better as we are force fed a ridiculously vomit-inducing love subplot between Sandler’s repair man and Michelle Monaghan’s military Violet. The pair may have had good chemistry BUT the terrible lines and schmaltzy scenes soon put out that fire.

Conveniently, or thanks to lazy script writing, Sandler’s best friend (Kevin James) is the President of the United States. This could have been ripe for gags galore. We know James can be funny. BUT flailing around, busting out stupid dance moves and shouting all the time doesn’t work. Come on. We had two Paul Blarts for that. Which were an improvement from this mess.

I was praying for the aliens to attack and when they did, it was brilliant. The only redeeming feature. Although 3D was definitely a waste of time. The sequences and effects were fantastic. The Pac Man Mini Cooper street race subdued my griping for a good ten minutes.

The Centipede laser gun shootout was also pretty decent. It was just a shame that a cringe-inducing cameo from Sean Bean took my attention away from it. Now the chap has done some bad movies in his day BUT even this one took the biscuit. Glad he was up for a laugh. BUT I was laughing for all the wrong reasons.

The little animated Cubert was certainly entertaining for the little ‘uns but its whiny Chipmunk voice did my nut in. The Tetris game attack was a particular highlight for me. Each line detonating a floor of a skyscraper. Fantastic.

Every time the aliens attacked, I was hooked. When they didn’t, it was tedious and dull. Every time the characters stopped to talk, the film was hampered down massively. It didn’t help that a lot of the Happy Madison regulars were missing. All those little in-jokes would have done this film a world of good.

Peter Dinklage. Ol’ Tyrion Lannister himself. He really gave it a go BUT he just annoyed the hell out of me. He had a couple of one liners here and there BUT I desperately wanted him to shut up. Pardon the expression but this was a massive step down from the Game of Thrones actor.

The cameos were wasted. I couldn’t believe Serena Williams and Brian Cox (Not the star man, the actual star) were in this. Williams didn’t have a bad stint as Eddie’s unimpressed love interest. While Cox was very dull as a bland general. Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars) may have looked stunning as Lady Lisa BUT she really was as one dimensional as her counterpart. And Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) might as well as have not been in it.

Josh Gad saved the day again as the unhinged conspiracy nut. He brought the schtick that saved the Wedding Ringer and did everything to make this lead balloon fly. There were a number of lines that got a chuckle out of me, “You’re the first person to come over . . . Voluntarily”. His reunion with Sandler and a bottle of chloroform was hilarious.

BUT alas it wasn’t enough. The gags were sparse. They even resorted to my pet hate of naff stereotyping with Aunt Petunia from Harry Potter playing the Prime Minister and talking utter jibberish. Well, the Queen’s English. Apparently. Sloppy.

Josh Gad, a silly nostalgic premise and some cracking effects may have made parts watchable BUT it just wasn’t enough. A wasted opportunity. Maybe more money should have spent on the script or the gags at least.

2(Just)/5

X MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST REVIEW

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X Men Give It To Ya! Days of Making Good Films At Last! Finally! Thank you! Welcome back Mr Bryan Singer. A little while since X Men was released, I know, but so many bad movies got my pulse racing that I pushed this little gem to the drafts.

But low and behold, a film that entertains, intrigues and keeps you engrossed. Everything you could hope for. Singer is deservedly back at the realm to resurrect a flailing franchise. To be honest, I loved Singer’s entries (easy now) and didn’t mind the X Men First Class and (cough) The Last Stand. What? The Last Stand wasn’t perfect and lacked Singer’s direction. Sorry Mr Ratner but it wasn’t all bad.

It was a shame that the Wolverine spin offs were so turgid and flat. If not for the bravado of the legendary Hugh Jackman, they would have been a complete write off. So much rich material and yet they go for the slow meandering cliché rubbish that is . . . not in the comic. If not for the little teasers of a reunion I might not have bothered. However, not this time. I mean I’m not going to lie. I am not a comic book guy but I love the adaptations. There may be too many but none the less. Most of them are alright and this one, most certainly, is.

After an incredibly dark and action packed opening in which an apocalyptic war has broken out between humans and mutants. We see our heroes hiding and struggling against a new foe, the ever-adaptable Sentinels. However, it’s up to Wolfie to go back in time to stop the turning point that led to the Sentinels’ very origins – an assassination attempt in the 70s by a murderous Mystique (the lovely Miss Jennifer Lawrence). But of course, it’s not that easy as Wolfie must work with an angry Xavier and vengeful Magneto at the time where they couldn’t be farther apart. Leading to a good movie.

The only irritating thing is that we lose out on the epic duo of McKellen and Stewart but it’s not all bad as they are upgraded with their younger counterparts, the talented McAvoy and Fassbender or McBender. The pair work well together and deliver their take on two iconic characters played by two iconic actors to perfection. Hugh Jackman is fantastic as Wolverine. And the dude is hench. 45 and ripped like that. Damn. It was great to see old Tyrion, Peter Dinklage getting his teeth into a villainous role. Shame it was a little part and no that was not an intentional jibe. Come on, I’m above that. (What?)

The 3D is a worthy investment. A fantastic prison escape sequence in which new guy Quicksilver (Evan Peters – American Horror Story) is able to show his talents is worth the ticket alone. Slow motion, glass and water flying out the screen, brilliant. Peters was fantastic as Quicksilver and provided a memorable supporting role. I feared adding more characters might be a case of too many cooks in the broth but not this guy. The same cannot be said for the collection of mutants that appeared in the futuristic opening. Sorry, Bishop and Warpath. I’m looking at you.

Basically your overall reaction will always be down to a few things. A) How much of an X Men fan you are – obviously. B) How you felt about the other instalments? C) What Bryan Singer, a man who has shared quite publicly, his distaste on how certain sequels *cough* The Last Stand *cough cough* may have messed things up.

Now if you were a director who could come back and had time travel as a plot device, what would you do? That’s all I will say.

The film is not without its imperfections. My main issue was that with such a huge number of characters at Singer’s disposal and the plot line, there is always that fear that a favourite character will be removed, restricted or not even included.

Singer does his best to include as many as possible but being that they are battling a genocidal war in the future, it just easy to say they died for the cause. However, you are then sitting there, asking how? But the film would have been three hours or another movie, which although tempting, would have taken the Michael. However, it’s well written, well-acted and the pace rarely dips. An unexpected but equally predictable climax does inevitably leave things open yet again.

Also don’t wait for the end credits, it’s not worth it. I’m sure it will be on YouTube. That will save you ten to fifteen minutes learning who was the PA of the PA for Sir Ian McKellen.

BUT in comparison to the number of hit and misses that have tortured my normally tolerant resolve, this gets a solid 4. INVEST.

Currently ranks 18 out of 184!