*NEW* THE SECRET OF MARROWBONE REVIEW *NEW*

A secret worth finding out?

From the writer who penned The Orphanage . . .

I will admit I may have set my expectations a little high. To see a low key period horror pop up during the summer blockbuster season was a shocker enough.

A young man and his three younger siblings, who have kept secret the death of their beloved mother (Don’t worry. That’s not the secret!) in order to remain together, are plagued by a sinister presence in the sprawling manor in which they live.

As their mother crossed a line across the dusty and dilapidated landing, a promise was made: “No more memories. We are the Marrowbones”.

I feared the worst with the nauseating opening act (and Anya Taylor-Joy’s (Split) dreadfully corny introduction) as the kids adjusted to the seemingly peaceful and idyllic tranquility of the Marrowbone estate. Free from their troubled past.

BUT thankfully that didn’t last long. Or else we would have had one hell of a boring affair.

I couldn’t really call this a horror. I felt a little misled by the marketing BUT that didn’t spoil too much of my enjoyment. Especially when the delightfully shady estate lawyer Porter (Kyle Soller – Poldark) reared his ugly head.

If anything, Marrowbone was more of a psychological thriller. NOT to say I wasn’t wincing in places. There were some brilliantly executed moments of tension. It’s funny how several sinister chords and a tattered sheet over a broken mirror could leave me with no finger nails.

By the 30 minute marker, I was hooked. Right up to the gripping finale as the siblings did everything possible to keep up the rouse.

Every time poor Sam (Matthew Stagg) went off for a wander, I feared the worst. Tiptoeing around the house, afraid to wake the ghost. A story to keep young Sam out of trouble? Or something more?

Creepy and unsettling. This reminded me very much of The Others and The Innocents. 

The pacing stumbled in parts and the big reveal of the secret will definitely split people. Some will laugh at the convoluted unravelling, others may be surprised and love the direction it took. I was somewhere in between.

BUT I have to commend the impressively talented and underrated cast; featuring the likes of Mia Goth (A Cure For Wellness) and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things).

I wasn’t sure that George MacKay would be strong enough for the leading role. I was never convinced with his turn in Sunshine on Leith (despite stellar supporting turns in Pride and Captain Fantastic) BUT I have to say I was impressed with his performance. Showing his range in the final third.

Everyone got their moment to shine. I loved the chemistry between MacKay and Joy. Thankfully Joy’s character came into the fold a lot more as everything came to a head.

It wasn’t perfect and its tough not to discuss plot points without spoiling crucial twists.

BUT it was different, killed the time and if you’re in the mood for a low budget creepy little mystery, check it out.

2.5/5

*NEW* CAPTAIN FANTASTIC REVIEW *NEW*

It really was fantastic.

In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father (Viggo Mortensen) devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.

I wasn’t sure from the bizarre opening sequence whether I was going to like the whole Bear Grylls/Swiss Family Robinson vibe to the piece BUT by the end, I was completely won over.

Endearing, entertaining and heartbreaking. A feel good family film in the most dysfunctional way possible. This might even rival Little Miss Sunshine.

I couldn’t believe that this was penned and directed by that creepy guy from Big Love.

Matt Ross delivers a heartwarming story that tackles grief, rites of passage and the woes of the modern society brilliantly.

The unorthodox upbringing may raise a few eyebrows but it almost worked. A strict regime of self defense, intellectual discussions and living off the land is something that I couldn’t even muster (Let alone the majority of the younger generation).

Their campfire Kumbaya may have been a little corny BUT it established a crazy but close-knit family unit hidden in a nirvana away from the real world. Or was it?

There was a quirky and easygoing feel to the piece and with all the crazy get up they were wearing, you could have mistaken it for a Wes Anderson flick!

No?

It wasn’t long before tragic news forced the family to emerge from their natural habitat. And this was where it won me over.

The cast were perfectly chosen. The only one that grated against me was Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton). As much as you could feel for the poor lad, his incessant screaming and temper tantrums really got on my wick.

George MacKay (Sunshine on Leith/Pride) was very good as the socially awkward Bo secretly applying for college behind his father’s back.

I loved all the contrasts and social commentary; “Why is everyone fat? Are they sick?” There were some witty one liners as Ben and co. couldn’t believe the obesity and mindless brainwashing from the merciless corporations on the masses.

“You would rather celebrate a magical fictitious elf over a living humanitarian who did so much for our human rights?”

I loved the comparison of parenting styles when Ben visited his sister’s family. Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms) and Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club) were brilliant. Not enough of them in my opinion.

It was hilarious when Ben showed off his children’s knowledge on The Bill of Rights while his sister’s kids were too busy with their heads in their phones or X-Boxes.

The journey was mad BUT entertaining as the family made out they were bible bashers just to evade a curious copper’s questions about the kids’ truancy.

I was startled at Ben educating his youngest on sex, rape and capitalism. Mental. Even crazier when he faked a seizure in a supermarket for OPERATION SAVE THE FOOD so the clan could fill their boots.

The last 30 minutes was where it really hit home when Ben decides to gatecrash his wife’s funeral despite his father-in-law’s wishes.

Virgo Mortensen deserved the Oscar nod. You could see beneath all that intellectual sparring that there was a tormented man struggling to deal with the loss of his wife. Unsure what to do.

Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) was superb as the angry father in law. Blaming Ben for taking his daughter and grandchildren away from him. Deluding them into believing this way of life was acceptable.

BUT as much as you were impressed by the kids’ education and survival instincts, they were completely lost when it came to social interaction and as the story progressed, you realised that they might not be as into the idea as their grief-stricken father.

Things reaching boiling point when Bo finally decides to talk about his college application as Ben begins to re-evaluate himself.

I should have known with Alex Somers orchestrating the score that Sigur Ros’ Jonsi would pop up in this. A wonderful soundtrack.

I was pleasantly surprised and even on second viewing, it still had me through the highs and lows. 

A heartfelt, engaging family drama that is worthy of your attention.

4/5 Just!

THE RIOT CLUB REVIEW

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Such a riot! Tragically not. Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening, leading to . . .

A mediocre class satire that had so much potential to be so much more.

To be honest, the concept should have stayed as a play. The adaptation fails to carry itself on the big screen. If not for the prolific British cast attached to this, I don’t think it would have been done at all.

The only actor that will survive this poor affair will be Sam Claflin (Love, Rosie) who was deliciously revolting. His character Alistair Ryle was a perfect panto villain. Camp and vile. It is a shame however that he was very much a stereotype. A snobby toff that “hates poor people”. As if we needed to cement the stereotype further with that. I can’t believe that was actually written in the script.

Max Irons (The Host) played the lead as well as he could but he was terribly bland up until the final 20 minutes in which he finally had a little bit of meat from the script to chew on and do a bit of acting. He was able to share some chemistry with Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) but it’s all so predictable.

BUT Irons was always going to finish second to the rest of the cast comprising of young future British prospects; Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet), Ben Schnetzer (Pride) and Sam Reid (Belle).

It does not help that the tone is all over the place. Riding off the Made in Chelsea vibe, the opening act was farcical and terribly OTT as we are given a brief history about the founder of the infamous club, Lord Riot. A genius and a . . . TOTAL LEGEND.

I could feel my hopes for this film fading in an instant. However, the club members did provide enough tomfoolery for a silly but watchable half hour. The initiation sequence had a demented Dead Poets Society feel and I really hoped it was going to keep heading in that direction dealing with the class and society issues within the confines of the school.

The club’s initial introduction and candidate hunt was quite funny. Sam Reid’s overtly flamboyant Hugo chasing after Irons’ Miles for his own intentions. The boozing and sleeping around felt like a mash of Skins meets Made in Chelsea.

However, the tone gets a little bit serious when the club unite to dine. The dinner sequence was a perfect platform to stage a cross-examination of the upper class but it took so long to get going. As tempers rise and more booze and drugs are ingested at the dinner table, things finally begin to bubble up.

There are some tense moments but it’s tough to do a commentary when all the characters are merely stereotypes. It made a change that it wasn’t a piece on hoodies peddling drugs and committing crimes on a council estate but rich spoilt brats poking fun at the working class is just fuel for fire.

I can respect what the writer was trying to say but the characters and the aftermath are exaggerated so theatrically that I can’t take them seriously. I mean at one point the lads are picking at the 10 fowl main course because one bird is missing. Terrible.

They were nothing more than the seven posh dwarves; Dopey, Sleazy, Shouty and Crackhead. The tension soon subsides and leads to complete and utter chaos with relentless destruction (an elongated five minute Extreme Makeover sequence that was beyond overkill) and a predictable twist.

Jessica Brown-Findlay (Downton Abbey) played the waitress as well as she could but it was a wasted role. Anyone could have played her. She merely scowled and had the odd jibe back at the posh plebs.

The alluring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) had the easiest cameo going. Her character was nothing more than a catalyst to fuel the tempers of horny, drug induced toffs in the form of a misled escort.

My quip besides playing on the mainstream red band papers and hyping up stereotypes was that there wasn’t enough story for me. The idea of them discussing their views during a dinner had potential. BUT it’s goes from nothing to everything.

It was too slow, the characters were un-relatable and it ended oh so predictably and lazily with the usual commentary that the rich get away with anything, apparently. Hardly a spoiler. After the dinner incident, I thought there was potential for a suspenseful stand off as the gang begin to give each other up. BUT it’s wrapped up within minutes so flatly and easily. Disappointing.

I predict a riot for people heading towards the door.

2/5

PRIDE REVIEW

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A film that should have taken more pride in it’s story and cast. Solidly acted, well written but a case of hype helping an easygoing biopic that seemed to hinder as it reached it’s conclusion.

To be honest, I think it may be a sign of the time. Despite it’s subject matter appearing “controversial”, it seems to be showing that we are very much past that era. The fact that nowadays a film like this can be viewed and received positively says it all. I know I wasn’t around during that period and I can certainly empathize. But I’ll never really know what these groups truly went through. Director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford capture that perfectly and there are endearing moments as the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group suffer the scrutiny of the miners as they try and show their genuine support.

An attempt to publicise their beliefs soon becomes so much more once they meet the mining community and realise that despite conflicting sexualities, the groups very much share something in common and unite in a time of desperation, anger and torment. My main issue is that the film deals with it far too lightly and for it’s all hype, I wasn’t really laughing that much nor did I shed a tear.

At times, the story felt like it was going through the motions. It’s tough to stick to a true story without exaggerating certain facts to make a little more drama. However, I feel maybe a little more could have been exaggerated to justify the 120 minute length. When I saw the trailer, I expected an OTT, feel-good laugh a minute British dramedy. It certainly ends uplifting and brings the odd chuckle but most of them are revealed in the heavily flogged trailers. If you’re lucky then the jokes will certainly be fresh to you.

One thing I will definitely commend is the cast of British talent at Warchus and Beresford’s disposal. It was a surprise to see ol’ McNulty from The Wire in drag. Dominic West plays the role perfectly, balancing it with the right level of camp and heart. Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton are, to be expected, superb taking roles with completely different temperaments. Nighy’s deadpan but gentle Cliff to Staunton’s domineering outspoken chairman Hefina. Paddy Considine played Dai brilliantly. A complete change from his more introverted and volatile roles (Dead Man Shoes being a personal favourite).

The film also gave opportunities for up and coming actors. Ben Schnetzer was fantastic as group leader Mark. He is one to watch and has made a huge transformation from his supporting role in the highly enjoyable The Book Thief. He certainly carries the group in their time of peril and indeed the film. Jessica Gunning’s performance as the ambitious Sian was also worth noting. She has been around on the UK TV circuit for a while now and was most memorable for her small role in Great Night Out. She certainly proved that she can take a bigger role and deliver just as much gusto.

Menna Trussler was superb and in scene stealing form as the gullible and naïve Gwen. A loveable sweetheart whose intentions are in the right place, even if they may have come out the wrong way. “Where are my gays? I’ve missed them”, as well as her bizarre questions that she wanted rectifying after hearing from a friend down the market. She certainly delivered the one liners. Andrew Scott (Moriarty from Sherlock) was finally able to make an impression once his character was allowed to open up. A meeting with his mothers after years of being shunned seemed like a missed opportunity that was dealt with far too easily and quickly for my liking. Faye Marsay (Fresh Meat) was very good as Steph, the only lesbian in the group.

Joseph Gilgun played the role incredibly straight faced, which made a change after his role as Rudy in Misfits. However, you really wanted him to have some of that eccentricity as his character is hardly memorable. Liz White (or Annie from Life on Mars) played the role of Dai’s supporting wife as well as she could but is somehow pushed into the background.

With respect to the miners, Warchus and Beresford do not portray them as oafish or as naïve as you first anticipated from the trailers. Beresford has established an array of well rounded characters that stand out and are easily relatable to. At Pride’s heart it is still a story of two groups of people that were being shunned and downtrodden by the public, the papers and the government (most importantly). The AIDS propaganda campaign. The red band coverage of the miners’ strike. It was a surprise to believe that the majority of the events did happen and as the credits appeared over each character explaining what happened after this unifying moment, there were some surprisingly revelations which did hit home.

The soundtrack was brilliant and really ignited that nostalgia for the 80s. Well acted, well written, bit long at the tooth but . . .

For all the hype, the best British film of the year? En par with The Full Monty, Brassed Off and Billy Elliott? A film that will stand time and be remembered in the future. Not to me, I’m afraid pet.

3.5/5 Still one of the better ones but for it’s all hype, falls short for me and could have been more. Worth a gander most definitely.

THE BOOK THIEF REVIEW

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An endearing and heartfelt drama. Brilliantly written, nicely shot and well acted.

Against the backdrop of the impending Second World War, a young orphan Liesel Nieminger (Sophie Nelisse) finds solace in stealing books as well as hiding a Jewish refugee, Max (Ben Schnetzer) who is being sheltered by her adoptive parents.

I’ve never read Markus Zusak’s best selling novel BUT certainly want to now after watching this. A brilliant narration from Roger Allam (V for Vendetta) accompanied a sobering and dark opening sequence as Liesel met her foster parents for the first time; the instantly loveable and easygoing Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and stern and frumpy Rosa (Emily Watson). It allowed for an easygoing first act as she adjusted to her new home and made friends with the eager Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch). BUT also enemies with the delightfully unpleasant bully Franz Deutscher (Levin Liam).

The film subtly built up to the impending war. It was an interesting transition as it soon took a toll on the community. At 131 minutes, there were parts where the film did dip BUT it was still riveting and beautiful to watch. Once Max (a fantastic debut from Schnetzer – Pride) entered the mix, the film branched out and made for an endearing, suspenseful and engaging war drama.

Nelisee is a good little actress and carries the film well. She is definitely going to be one to watch for the future. It’s always important that these dramas have characters you can root for and care about. The supporting cast were perfect. Rush and Watson were fantastic as her sparring foster parents. Liersch and Nelisse had great chemistry as the childhood companions desperate to keep hold of their friendship as the war takes those around them.

It’s always tough to make a war drama after so many fantastic examples. It’s important to remember that this is an experience of the Nazi regime under Hitler through the eyes of a little German girl. If you’re expecting a gritty, explosive war flick you will be left disappointed. However, the film builds up to an unexpected, harrowing and tear jerking finale as the war breaks apart the idyllic Heaven Street. All aided with the a beautifully Oscar nominated score from none other than the great John Williams (Jaws/Harry Potter/Star Wars)

My main qualm with the film was that it breezes over crucial turning points in Hitler’s regime. We all know some aspect of the man’s madness. BUT we’re also NOT history buffs. We’re all aware of the horrendous treatment of the Jews BUT may not necessarily know the Night of the Long Knives. The overlong pace may test some. The first hour may have been a little schmaltzy BUT it still delivered a harrowing finale. The only problem was that it felt a little abrupt and left too many questions about certain protagonists. There could have been a little more time spent on explaining and been better for it without spoiling anything.

However, I still went in, NOT sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. Definitely one of the better films.

3.5/5