*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)

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*NEW* THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN REVIEW *NEW*

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I’ll think I’ll wait for the next train.

A slow burning thriller that (with a little perseverance) delivered a decent pay-off.

A divorcee (Emily Blunt) becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shock waves throughout her life.

Based on the bestselling novel . . . How many more times are Hollywood going to scrape the barrel? I haven’t had the pleasure of reading the Paula Hawkins novel BUT have been told on good authority (by my Mum and Aunt who may or may not be scouting through this review) that it stayed pretty close to its source material.

The slow burning pace and flicking about subdued my griping. The fractured time frame spanning from six months to the present kept things interesting. Mainly because I had no idea what was going on.

BUT that was the main appeal for me as we were told tidbits of a disjointed story through an unreliable narrator; struggling alcoholic Rachel. Emily Blunt was brilliant as the plastered protagonist. You really felt for the broken beauty. Her fascination with a house, that the line stops by every day, soon borderlines on obsession.

It felt like a noir flick with all the shady characters; Rachel drinking to forget, the alluring but flawed Haley Bennett’s (The Magnificent Seven remake) fooling around and manipulating men to her own devices and Rebecca Ferguson’s (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) depressed housewife not quite living the perfect life.

The different viewpoints from the three ladies left me trying to decipher whose story to believe. You could feel your empathy changing towards each character as we delved further into their pasts. BUT things reached boiling point when Rachel woke up (from another drunk train ride) covered in blood with no recollection of the night before.

If anything, The Girl on the Train was very much in the same vein as Before I Go To Sleep (Another recommended thriller) with Rachel’s drunken blackouts and inability to piece anything together plummeting her into a dangerous pursuit for the truth. Unwittingly setting herself up as the prime suspect in a murder case.

That’s not to say there weren’t enough red herrings. The small supporting cast played the parts perfectly. It was good to see Luke Evans play something other than a panto villain in a horror flick or Fast and Furious movie. He played Megan’s brooding and possessive husband well.

I was also impressed to see Alison Janney play a straight role as Detective Riley. Especially after her turn in that terrible sitcom Mom. Laura Prepon (Orange is The New Black) didn’t do a bad turn as Rachel’s supportive friend Cathy. Justin Theroux (The Leftovers) was a solid lead as Rachel’s ex Tom. Reluctant to completely shut Rachel out from his life.

I was disappointed that Phoebe from Friends (Lisa Kudrow) had such a small and dismal role. Anyone could played her. The same could be said for Bodhi from Point Break (Edgar Ramirez) as the sulky therapist who desperately tried to evade Megan’s flirtatious advances.

The unravelling was intriguing enough BUT the pace did tend to meander along, killing a good portion of the momentum, and the endless flashbacks soon became very repetitive. Especially the memory flashes to that blasted tunnel! We kept being shown the same images with no new information or progress.

However, once things began to piece together, the final 20 minutes was compelling and nail biting. Some will argue that with only a small number of characters; there are only so many possible outcomes. BUT I can honestly say I didn’t call the twist and even if people sussed it early, the aftermath was still pretty damn tense with a couple of revelations along the way.

Whether that rule will apply for fans of the book is another story. The Da Vinci Code did everything to the letter and I was bored to tears watching the film adaptation. Only because I knew everything that was going to happen. BUT the first two Harry Potter films on the other hand 👌🏻

I didn’t go in expecting much and came out pleasantly surprised.

A good cast, aided with some great suspense, did just enough to drudge through the lengthy pace and stuttering flashbacks to make this one to watch.

3/5

HERCULES REVIEW

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Can you smeeeellll what Hollywood is cooking? A mediocre action epic of a blockbuster that regurgitates the same old cheesy guff and desperately craves to be so much more but alas it was not to be. Still not a bad way to kill 90-odd minutes, jabroni!

Bless my soul, Herc is on the . . . No, enough of that. Wrong Hercules. If there was ever a man to play the ultra-strong demi-God Hercules, it is Dwayne “The Man that is becoming a Rock” Johnson. The man is a machine with enough machismo to inject the wrinklies for more Expendables movies. An absolute tank. Plenty for the ladies and even the fellas . . . if only to sigh at their feeble mortal body flab. On a serious note, Dwayne Johnson is not a bad actor (Hello? He was a wrestler) and always has a charismatic presence on the screen. He has proven to be a reliable lead and it’s great to see him given the platform yet again.

However, there are only so many poor lines that The Rock can make sound good. His stone cold stare and asking his foes if he looks afraid, brilliant. His longwinded chivalrous speeches about becoming the legends you were born to be, meh not so much. Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) has never been one for story and drama. His strengths have always been action and bringing the laughs. Now when the action does kick in, it’s pretty decent. The CGI actually helps make the scenes. The 3D was actually very impressive, if gimmicky. I mean a flaming arrow flying at you out of the screen is always going to be gimmicky but cool. (I know. Lame so sue me).

The animated adversaries that Hercules must fight are brilliant visual sequences as well as the battle scenes. That along with Hercules’ rag tag team of misfits makes this an easy going, silly but watchable movie like the movies of old. However, it is when the team disperse and Ratner has to tell a story to piece all the wonderful animation and good action together that it drags the film down and puts you into a lull. I know? Even at 98 minutes. Even with a decent cast, you can’t help but laugh or tut at the predictable and lazy guff.

It’s so corny and dull, you find it hard to keep an interest. I mean after all the promise of the opening with Hercules’ team fighting while delivering cheesy banter, I actually wanted more of that during the “serious getting to know the characters and trying to add dimensions to them” segments. Joseph Fiennes plays a restricted if perfectly type cast role as the sleazy King Eurystheus. John Hurt does his best to try and apply some acting gravitas to his frail malicious Lord Cotys (no, not Coitus! Stop it!). Peter Mullan is to be expected as the shady Sitacles. It’s great to see him getting in bigger movies. A great actor. Rufus Sewell and Ian McShane were certainly the most memorable out of the misfits.

Sewell is an underrated actor and it’s nice to see him play a good guy for once. He manages to come out with some of the better one liners. Ian McShane is pretty much playing himself but as a wizard who can see his own death. However, the rest of the cast are either flat or really irritating. Reece Ritchie and Rebecca Ferguson (no, not the X Factor singer!) I’m looking at you. Ritchie’s OTT narrator was awful. Sorry, only Paul Bettany got away with that in A Knight’s Tale.

To be honest, it has fun moments but it gets dragged down by its own lazy attempts to try and be serious. It’s big and dumb. Don’t try and be clever. While I was watching the Rock dispense enemies with a fist here and a mighty swipe with his club there, I really wanted more. I mean, not even a Rock Bottom or an Elbow of his people? Apart from punching a guy off his horse and one 50 yards across the field, there isn’t much else.

The idea of playing down Hercules as a demi-God and that he is a fraud, exaggerating stories to bring fear to his captives for his bounty is a good concept. But when you see him punch guys across the battlefield and fight giant lions, you’re not fooling anyone. I mean, look at him? It also made me want to watch The Scorpion King again. A film that by comparison knew it was being big and dumb and was better for it.

It’s okay. At it’s best, action packed and cheesy. At it’s worst, dull, boring and cheesy. Worth a watch if you want a no-nonsense punch up blockbuster but otherwise, invest in Gladiator or The Scorpion King!

2.5/5 for me. Next time, Mr. Ratner better banter, better baddy and a bit more fun. Screw the story. Do I look afraid?

Please find my Hercules related videos just to make a change.

1) The first one my reaction when I first saw the trailer for the new Hercules movie with The Rock

2) My reaction after watching said film using TV Hercules Kevin Sorbo

3) Just for fun