*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

POLTERGEIST REVIEW

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Pol-turd-geist!

Consider my faith in horror movies extinguished.

Another horrific remake stains the silver screen and makes one unhappy and frustrated film goer throw in the towel.

A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take her captive.

As soon as I heard that this cursed horror classic was being remade, I screamed “Why?” Why waste money and time on remaking films that didn’t need to be touched?

The trailers may have done their job of piquing my interest but they could have at least made an effort with the story, the characters, the scares and the actual film.

Hollywood must be scraping the bottom of the barrel. I just discovered that there is a Point Break remake due for release? Has the world gone mad? Can they not think of anything original or even remake a bad movie? I can think of hundreds. Apparently the studio heads can’t. Hell, they could remake the the majority of the horror films that were released this last year alone!

The original was a classic. Flawed but weird and, most importantly, creepy. This turgid affair was laughable. Seriously the audience were in tears. Not of fear but actual laughter.

The 3D gimmick was the only reason I gave this any points. It was still lazy and desperate but it worked. But compared to the bland acting and clichéd dialogue, of course it would.

Sam Rockwell “Rockwelled” the place up. He was probably the only saving grace. Shame he was barely in it. Kennedi Clements was also excellent as the adorable little Madison. Giving Heather O’Rourke a run for her money. Hell, she acted better than the rest of the cast.

Jared Harris’ performance was terrible. A prolific actor reduced to a parodic (Well, I should say moronic) role. The character Carrigan Burke was a joke. The silly videos promoting his highly televised paranormal TV show got a cheeky laugh. Poking fun at the Derek Acorahs of the world.

The only problem was that he completely killed any tension or suspense that the film desperately needed. He also seemed to forget that he was supposed to be Irish and then halfway through the film, he really thickened his accent up. It was comical for all the wrong reasons.

Plus he didn’t contribute anything to fighting the poltergeist. He just bellowed, “Leave this family!” and got sucked up in the wormhole when there was no need.

You know the film is failing when the best moment is a 3D demon squirrel flying at you out of the screen. You read that right. A 3D demon squirrel.

The clowns were creepy. BUT they were rushed into the mix far too quickly. Desperate for a quick fright. Sacrificing suspense for a naff scare. It had enough to scar anyone who may have a slight phobia of clowns but it was done so badly that I thought I was watching Scary Movie 2.

Also, why the clowns? What was the relevance? Nothing to do with poltergeists, cursed burial grounds, nothing. “Sometimes, son. People collect weird stuff”. Really? That’s it.

It didn’t help that the moment was ruined by young Griffin being dragged out of his room by a tree? Seriously. This all happened. A lazy Evil Dead gag that failed on all fronts. That aerial shot when the parents pull up on the drive to see him dangling from said tree was hilarious!

The house wasn’t even built on an Indian burial ground. Some passing reference poking fun at the original’s ridiculous premise may have been noted. But what the writers offered up in this monstrosity managed to make that a masterpiece. No curse or creepy backstory. Just some old cemetery that was dug up and moved away. Riiggghhhttt.

The bits that would have made you jump were flogged heavily in the trailers. If you were lucky not to see them, then you might have a jump or two. The endless screaming and corny exchanges were not even funny. Look. If you have a muddy corpse crawling out of the ground, you don’t stand there and scream at it! You bloody run!

Or even worse. Every time the family would survive an encounter or little fright, they would hug each other and say how sorry they are for being a useless father, daughter, son. Get out of the house!

What annoyed me was that there was a slow opening build up that had potential. The characters were actually given a little depth. Griffin battling his ongoing anxieties. Rockwell’s father struggling with money problems. But it went nowhere and didn’t matter by the end. A waste of time. Which summarizes my experience of this film.

The only scare people will get is the ticket price.

The horror, the horror!

1/5

SAY WHEN REVIEW

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WHEN! WHEN! WHEN!

When . . . will they stop churning films out like these?

A little harsh but oh so disappointing. (NOT Kevin Sorbo Hercules DISAPPOINTED!)

Keira Knightley certainly does her best but even with a decent supporting cast; you can’t help but feel that the film doesn’t deliver enough romance, enough comedy and enough of . . . anything really.

So what’s it all about? In the throes of a quarter-life (What?) crisis, Megan (Knightley) panics when her boyfriend (Mark Webber) proposes, then taking an opportunity to escape for a week, hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year-old Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz), who lives with her world-weary single dad (Sam Rockwell).

Knightley has already proven with Begin Again that she can deliver an American accent and handle a leading role with no qualms. She certainly delivers another solid performance which helps carry this lacklustre affair.

We start with the inevitable cheesy (and nauseating shaky hand held camera) montage of Knightley and her teenage friends having fun during their prom. A little unnecessary and overlong. That then skips to the present with Megan’s slacker plodding along through life. Flipping signs for her father’s business and constantly making up excuses as to why she hasn’t seen her career councillor.

A character I could relate to a little too easily. Her procrastination and immaturity becoming a bug bear for all who know her (Not that bit . . . I hope).

Ellie Kemper (Sex Tape) was probably the only high school friend who had any decent dialogue or actual substance. Constantly trying to control and push Megan to sort her life out. The sort of friend that we all have or (if you’re lucky) used to.

Her cringe-inducing wedding dance made for unsettling but laughable viewing. I’m never going to listen to Daniel Bedingfield’s “If You’re Not The One” in the same way again. But then again, I never liked that song. But that’s a different story.

The wedding was the perfect platform for Megan to hit breaking point. There was one unexpected revelation that I didn’t see coming which made for a surprise. The inevitable friends growing up and moving on spiel is playing to its heart content. Weddings, babies, etc. The usual guff.

However, it is at this moment that Webber’s Anthony (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) decides to pop the question to Megan. Her response? She runs away while pretending to be on a life changing seminar, of course!

Taking some time to re-think all her decisions and frustrations, Megan seeks refuge in 16 year old Annika’s home. Moretz doesn’t do a bad job but her character is a little weak, in comparison to the number of meatier and more memorable roles she has delivered.

Once Megan meets Annika’s dad, the legend that is Sam Rockwell. Moretz seems to be pushed into the background. Only to pop back up when the story is lagging. Her subplot involving a crush on one of her high school friends was all too tame and horribly cliched.

Sam Rockwell was . . . pretty much being Sam Rockwell. Which just about works this time round. To be honest, his role was a lot smaller than I expected. He’s instantly likeable and very entertaining. He works well with Knightley and they have great chemistry. He also delivers some funny lines and a couple of (definite) improvised moments. You could tell the cast were trying not to laugh.

I was frustrated that Megan and Craig had to fall in love with each other. It felt forced. We know Megan was unhappy with Anthony but he wasn’t a complete tool. It just seemed unnecessary. It would have been more of a twist if they didn’t get together. The friendship would have worked better. Don’t get me wrong, K & R do just enough to pull it off . . . and make it bearable.

I was hoping for more of an examination of Megan’s quarter-life crisis, as a lot more people in their 20s are going through this sort of thing, but it’s all resolved a little too easily and with a simple and lazy fling? Run out of ideas, maybe?

The gags are sparse and not very funny. One involving an anorexic tortoise just came off hammy and rather pointless. I mean come on! What was the point of it? A bonding prop for Knightley and Rockwell? And the naming a baby after planets gag wasn’t funny from the first planet. We didn’t need the entire solar system named at us!

In terms of drama, there were some good moments. An awkward encounter between CGM and (the alluring) Gretchen Mol’s (Boardwalk Empire) negligent mother showed promise and allowed Knightley’s Megan to step up but a few sobering words and that’s it? Really? Anyone could have played Mol’s character and to be honest, thinking back the whole scene was a little pointless as she doesn’t make a reappearance.

There was a turning point nearer the end of the film that allowed the little drama that there was to finally kick off. BUT again it’s all swept under the rug and resolved d far too easily. Leaving us with a cliched and highly predictable ending. Flat and expected.

There were some good performances from the rather bland characters. I couldn’t believe Jeff Garlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm was in this. It didn’t seem right without him shouting all the time. He didn’t do too bad a job.

Kaitlyn Dever (Justified) was quite funny and did well as Annika’s mad BFF. Webber played the dimwitted Anthony well. A change from Pilgrim. Completely oblivious to Megan’s feelings but not fully deserving of her frustrated temper.

There was certainly no issue with the pace. It zipped along well enough. I just wish it had a bit going on, that’s all.

Such a shame that it’s not as hard hitting or as offbeat as you wish. A mess but a watchable one. Say When? When you have the spare time and nothing better to watch, I’d say give it a go. They may have changed the title to Laggies but I just wish they could have changed the content instead.

2/5