*NEW* ALLIED REVIEW *NEW*

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I surrender.

Good chemistry does just enough to make this typical Hollywood war romance watchable.

In 1942, a Canadian intelligence officer (Brad Pitt) in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war.

Was this really penned by the man who gave us Peaky Blinders?

BUT at that same stroke, he gave us Locke and Mockingbird . . . So . . . yeah.

The opening act was slow burning BUT engaging as Pitt’s (incredibly bad CGI’d) Vatan descended onto the French Moroccan desert.

The tension slowly bubbling as the officer set out on his mission. The secret rendezvous. The cloak and dagger meetings. The questions piling up.

Cotillard stole the show from the get go. I expected nothing less as she did her best to hide Pitt’s school boy French. BUT it allowed for a nice icebreaker between the pair as they gathered Intel and rehearsed each other’s cover stories.

The detail was ridiculous from Vatan’s threads to perfecting his “Parisian” twang. He even had to sleep on the roof to establish the couple’s “reunion” as the neighbours watched from the windows.

The pace dragged BUT the pair’s blossoming partnership and chemistry made up for it as we played the waiting game. Cotillard’s Marianne proving she is more than just a piece of arm candy and up for the task in hand to the stern and dreadfully serious Vatan.

Don Burgess’ cinematography certainly left little on the eye. Casablanca didn’t look quite as romantic as the 1940s classic, that’s for sure. BUT that didn’t stop director Robert Zemeckis and co. piling on the cheese.

A little too Hollywood for my liking. No, really. I had to laugh at their whirlwind romance. Captured perfectly in a hilarious sandstorm bonk. Peer-leasseee.

Zemeckis’ track record has been hit and miss for the last 15 years BUT he knew how to deliver the suspense as the pair took on their risky mission. It was edgy, brutal and surprisingly violent.

BUT when the pair went back to London, the pace was tragically put on the back burner as they got hitched and had a child.

I had to cringe at Cotillard giving birth in the middle of an air raid. I’m sure it was meant to be a sweeping statement that war stops for no one BUT it was far too hammy.

Luckily it wasn’t long before the game was afoot again with a suspect Nazi agent in the ranks. The only problem was that the agent in question was Marianne.

Simon McBurney (The Conjuring 2) was quite creepy as the appropriately titled ‘Ratcatcher’. I wish he was in this more. Jared Harris’ (Mad Men) Frank Helsop, on the other hand, was a little tally ho and what for not. Shame.

The two men assigned to putting Vatan’s life in misery. My interest was finally peaked as Vatan sought to prove Marianne’s innocence; with failure to do so resulting in their execution. Grim stuff.

The final act delivered more of what I had expected from the get go. It was tense and, despite my grumbling, I was still guessing right up to the very end as Vatan had to re-evaluate the very woman he fell in love with.

I just wish Zemeckis had given us more suspense. I hadn’t been so anxious waiting for a phone to ring (Those who have seen it, will know what I’m talking about).

The lines weren’t quite as crisp or as memorable as I’d hoped and made some of the more dramatic scenes a little clunky. Oh . . . and Brad Pitt’s angry chair kick had me in stitches.

The supporting cast left little to be desired. Anyone could have played Lizzy Caplan’s (Now You See Me 2) part as Vatan’s sister. If at all. She was completely unnecessary and her silly romance with Charlotte Hope (Game of Thrones) felt tacked on and in the wrong film altogether.

I was more interested in Matthew Goode’s (The Imitation Game) disfigured war vet. He made more of an impression in five minutes than all of Caplan’s encounters combined.

I actually wanted to know more about his past with Vatan and the reasons behind his neglected hospital imprisonment. BUT alas, it was not to be.

Allied wasn’t as bad as I had originally anticipated. The two leads’ chemistry kept things watchable. It just felt like we had seen it all before and done much better.

Moments of quick violence and gore with patchy suspense sequences just didn’t quite cut it.

A watchable, if dreadfully muddled, affair.

So-so, all sport.

2.5/5

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*NEW* THE CONJURING 2 REVIEW *NEW*

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Is this the best that James Wan could conjure up?

Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by a malicious spirit.

I enjoyed the Conjuring. It may have been a little over-hyped BUT it was certainly one of the best horror films I’ve seen in the last decade. I wasn’t surprised to hear that a sequel was in the pipeline BUT after the abysmal Annabelle spin-off, I was anxious to say the least.

The first hour was brilliant. It took the same winning formula from the original and perfected it. The tense opening act got the ball rolling as our infamous paranormal investigators took on the Amityville Horror case. Thankfully Wan didn’t focus on that too much BUT it was a nice touch tying it in with the Enfield Haunting.

BUT despite the bubbling suspense, I was still a little disappointed that Wan took on Enfield in the first place. Especially when the critically acclaimed TV drama (A must watch) came out earlier this year. It was tough for me NOT to draw comparisons. We all know of the Enfield Haunting to some extent. If you were lucky enough NOT to, then this will freak you out a whole lot more.

Luckily Wan provided a creepy new addition for his roster of demented demons. I won’t be looking at nuns in the same way. That’s for sure.

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Shudder.

Every time she appeared in Farmiga’s dreams, I fidgeting uncomfortably. Nails bitten off.

Vera Farmiga was fantastic and carried the film when the pace dragged. The same cannot be said for Patrick Wilson. He was laughable and quite weak this time around. I guess it didn’t help matters that the story revolved primarily around Lorraine and her inner turmoil. Her dealings with the afterlife taking its toll.

Madison Wolfe was excellent as Janet Hodgson. Thank God the main child actor delivered because the others certainly didn’t. It was terrible having to listen to a good portion of the supporting cast screeching in horribly mangled “Cockney” accents.

Janet’s possession sequences were frightening. That was until the demented host spoke. The ghoul of Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) was creepy BUT once he started bellowing like Argus Filch from Harry Potter, it killed all the tension for me.

Wan loves to draw out a scene. Playing with the audience. Teasing the tension (aided by Joseph Bishara’s creepy score). The elongated hallway shots. The angles. The suspense as you knew something was going to happen or pop out.

For 60 minutes, I was fidgeting uneasily and caught up in it. Something I haven’t been able to do with a horror film in quite some time. BUT something somehow went wrong during the second half of the film. There was a moment where the film changed and lost all the fun for me. Spiralling downhill rapidly.

As soon as a neighbour’s Rottweiler morphed into something that looked like Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, my fears subsided as did my patience.

The pace dragged putting me into a mini-coma (The 132 minute length really did take the biscuit). BUT the longer it went on, the funnier it got. I would have said that this could have been ripe for a parody BUT by the end, it didn’t need one. It didn’t help having weak characters BUT the performances, my God!

Franka Potente (Creep) was completely unnecessary as another paranormal investigator. Talk about too many cooks spoiling the broth. Maria Doyle Kennedy (Orphan Black) was heavily underused in a ridiculous supporting role as a neighbour. Anyone could have played her.

Simon McBurney (Rev) was hilarious as paranormal investigator Maurice Grosse for all the wrong reasons. His conversation with a possessed Janet had me in stitches; “No, no, this isn’t your house!” Frances O’Connor (Artificial Intelligence) got on my wick as troubled mother Peggy. There was one scene in particular where she notices a demented corpse creeping towards Ed (Wilson) and what does our bewildered heroine do? Point a flashlight at the thing and say, “”Ere, whose that?”. Bearing in mind, we’ve had 80 minutes of messed up mayhem at this point. Come on!

Even the Nun (Bonnie Aarons) got on my nerves by the end. She kept popping up screaming and shrieking every five minutes. I desperately wanted her to go.

If Wan could have spend more time on pace, story and character instead of creating creepy new characters with needless spin offs then this would have been worth the hype! BUT the frantic finale dragged its heels and didn’t pay off.

Horror films just haven’t been the same in a very long time. Relying on hype and cheap scares. Scariest film of the year? Hell to the no. BUT it’s still the best of the rest. And that’s the biggest scare of all.

2.5/5

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT REVIEW

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There’s a little bit of magic in the cast BUT apart from that the moonlight just revealed all the flaws with this dated affair, old sport.

Not my best summary.

Despite the age gap, Colin Firth and Emma Stone have good chemistry and make this easy going and predictable 20s flick more than watchable.

So what is it about? An illusionist (Firth) is brought in to help unmask a possible swindle with a young “spiritualist” (Stone). To make matters worse, he might be falling for her.

I will admit that I’m not the biggest Woody Allen fan. I really feel that his work is overrated.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed some of his films. I actually didn’t mind Match Point and Vicky Christina Barcelona. But did Woody Allen use my love for ScarJo against me?

Colin Firth was superb as the deluded egotist and illusionist Stanley.

His quick quips and sarcastic commentary certainly made him a monster cut from the same cloth as Blue Jasmine (Another Allen flick I enjoyed).

Allen and cinematographer Darius Khondji capture the look and feel of the 20s perfectly. Magic In the Moonlight is rich with that nostalgia for the classics.

It’s good to see Simon McBurney getting more screen time. I’ve been a fan of him for some time. His performance as the Arch Deacon in Rev being a particular highlight.

He sweeps into the scene with his sly grin and slithery charm in the form of an old university colleague, Howard Burkan.

Setting Stanley on his journey with a wager. A wager to try and expose Sophie the spiritualist as a fraud.

It’s all rather tame, easy going and delivers the odd chuckle as Stanley goes out of his way to upset the fools that celebrate this so-called spiritualist.

Hamish Linklater played the love struck and incredibly gullible Brice Catledge brilliantly.

Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist/Flubber) was a little flat. She has proven in the past that she can play a strong supporting role and play it well but her mother figure was highly unmemorable.

Eileen Atkins (Doc Martin) was very good as Stanley’s Aunt Vanessa. Providing a little more depth and understanding to her heavily armoured nephew.

BUT it’s all so predictable which makes it all a little drab.

The beautiful sunshine and the picturesque French coastline is still a sight to behold. Instantly making me want to go on holiday and distracting me from scribbling on my critical clipboard.

Firth delivers enough charisma to carry the film. Until he meets Sophie.

The spiritual sessions are entertaining enough as you sit there with Stanley trying to work out if it is a con or real.

The effects aren’t that bad either but this is essentially a theatrical piece.

The whole philosophical debates about the afterlife was interesting enough for twenty minutes and made for some fiery exchanges between the two leads.

BUT after a while, that’s all they do. Talk and bicker about life, death, love and beliefs.

I can see what Allen was trying to do but it just got a little irritating, long winded and a bit pretentious for me.

At first glance, I thought that only a friendship was going to blossom between the pair because of the steep age gap.

I don’t think it helped that Stone’s outfits made her look a little too young. I’m not sure whether that was Allen’s intention.

The change in tone as their relationship transforms to possibly something more came off a little uneven.

Stone and Firth did enough to make it believable. But if I’m honest, it wasn’t necessary and it made the final outcome so predictable and cheesy.

Stone is in very high demand and for the majority of her performance, I could see why. There were moments where her little spiritual tricks went on a bit and she did begin to get on my nerves.

She can’t dance. Well, jive anyway. Her improvised moves in a jazz club had me cringing.

The ending was very much like the classics. And that was the problem. The dated and corny moments we laugh at now with the oldies only added to their charm.

However, when you try and rekindle that in a modern reworking, it just doesn’t come off quite as well as you hope.

The final moments were very hammy. That charm coming off a little tacky. I tutted and shook my head. A guilty smile sneaking across my face for the attempt.

An easy going, charming little time filler with two stellar performances. Just don’t expect too much.

2.5/5

*OSCAR WINNER* THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING REVIEW

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It really did have a bit of everything. Phenomenal acting, heartfelt drama and an inspiring true story.

Can I pick fault at the Oscar winning of one of the most intelligent and courageous physicists in the world?

There’s only one way to find out.

No, I can’t. Brilliant.

It’s hard to rant about a film when it was executed so perfectly. Finally a good film!

Eddie Redmayne was outstanding. It didn’t feel like I was watching an actor doing an impression. I felt like I was watching Hawking.

He delivered sincerity and charm to the role with aplomb. A charismatic performance that deservedly earned that shiny Oscar.

The opening zips along and is relatively easy going with Stephen and Jane (Felicity Jones) first meeting and inevitably falling in love.

It’s a little schmaltzy if I’m being really picky but the pair have fantastic chemistry to make it more than bearable.

It is heartbreaking as we see a chipper lovestruck Hawking focusing on his studies. Completely unaware of what lurks around the corner.

Director James Marsh and writer Anthony McCarten handle the story delicately.

We see Stephen begin to stumble, clumsily drop things and struggle to write little bits of equations. That is until one little accident . . .

All it took was one trip on the pavement. It happened quite unexpectedly. A few people actually jumped in the screen.

This soon becomes something so much more. As does this story.

Hawking soon has to deal with being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (ALS). An initial diagnosis that only gave him a life span of two years.

I couldn’t even imagine what it must have felt like and still feel for the man.

I won’t delve too much into the story because I want you guys to see this one.

What was interesting about The Theory of Everything is that it’s not just Stephen’s story. It’s also Jane’s story.

Both not fully prepared with what this diagnosis would do. The challenge it would become. The toll it would take.

Felicity Jones (Cemetery Junction/Chalet Girl) gave a fantastic performance as Jane and certainly earned that nomination. I expect to see more of her in the foreseeable future.

Doing everything she can for the man she loves and marrying him so they can enjoy whatever time they have left.

Heartbreaking, beautiful and inspiring.

If you are expecting more of the science stuff. Science stuff? Only the creation of the entire universe.

The film doesn’t really bog down too much on that aspect. It focuses very much on the people behind the science.

You could argue that a biopic always wins BIG. And just because it is a biopic, people will say it’s good and deserves an Oscar.

Not so! There’s a whole schedule of them on True Movies that will prove that theory wrong.

All it takes is a bad script, bad actor or bad execution and the biopic (No matter how inspiring or interesting it is) is ruined.

Luckily, there is never a doubt.

Hawking continues to miraculously defy his diagnosis BUT the condition take its toll NOT just on the man.

As well as seeing Hawking’s daily struggle, we also see Jane’s. By looking at how both Stephen and Jane are affected, we have a more rounded story.

Both aren’t painted perfectly in this tale.

It is tough to watch at times and you can feel for the pair. Jane made a sacrifice not completely aware of its full extent.

Redmayne really captures the expressions and movements intricately.

There is quite a bit of humour. Most notably being when Stephen is finally given a voice after losing his own. And the voice, we all know, being American. “Is that a problem?”, mutters the naive technician. A little grin flickers across the professor’s face.

Come on. Be honest. How many people thought he was American? No, just me. Oops.

I didn’t realise what Hawking had to endure. The constant battle with his body as it continues to shut down.

Things take an even more dramatic turn when Jane starts having feelings for another man.

The introduction of Jonathan (Charlie Cox) was an interesting development and was handled delicately.

It hits home a little harder when Stephen asks Jonathan to keep helping around the house because his wife needs him.

Charlie Cox (Boardwalk Empire) was very good. He had great chemistry with Jones and worked well with Redmayne.

The dynamic certainly sparked questions on Jane’s behaviour but at the same time you could relate and understand.

Even Professor Hawking seemed to be getting very close to his speech therapist (Maxine Peake).

The toll really starting to take a hold.

The cast cannot be faltered. Even the supporting cast was superb consisting of the likes of David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen from Game of Thrones!) and Simon McBurney (The Vicar of Dibley).

It really is an inspiring story of one mans struggle to defy the odds. But no one can do it alone. Jane’s support and dedication is something to be commemorated.

The final moments were touching. An uplifting, easygoing and wonderful acted biopic. A little cheesy BUT it really did have a bit of everything.

One of the best films, if NOT the best film, of the year. SO FAR.

4/5