*NEW* CAROL REVIEW *NEW*

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Two superb performances reprieve an overhyped and overlong affair.

Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk (Rooney Mara) who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman (Cate Blanchett).

I think this was another case of hype being a hindrance. I don’t know what I was expecting BUT somehow it didn’t quite deliver.

The pace was far too long. I didn’t mind watching the slow burning romance blossom BUT that there wasn’t much else. Romance movies were never my forte and the subject matter wasn’t as engaging as I had hoped.

I mean it in the best way because their relationship seemed so normal. With the legalisation of gay marriage and the rise of movies focusing on the gay rights movement and gay characters, it has marked a progressive change in perception.

All I saw was a normal relationship between two people. Of course, what helped was good characters and great acting that allowed you to buy into it. Blanchett and Mara were superb. They had fantastic chemistry and really made the relationship work.

The meandering pace really didn’t help things. It dipped in and out. This could have been done in 90 minutes and been better for it. The 50s controversial context gave it the much needed spice and things took a nastier turn when Carol’s husband Harge (Kyle Chandler – Friday Night Lights) came into the mix.

You felt for Carol as Harge battles the court to take her daughter away. Fighting for full custody on the grounds of breaking a “morality cause”. His anger and obsession to control Carol was daunting stuff and allowed for some tense moments. His volatile mood swings and drunken stupor created a threatening menace. But beneath all that bravado was a man scorned.

Carol is soon forced to make a decision to face the “moral” implications and have her dirty laundry about her previous relationships aired in the courts at the risk of losing her daughter or give up the love of her life. It was interesting watching Carol’s relationship with her previous lover Abby (Sarah Poulson – American Horror Story). A future glimpse of what could lie in store. A lonely woman haunting a big house.

The closing 30 minutes picked up the pace. The love scenes were dealt with tactfully BUT it’s not as if both actresses have been shy in front of the camera before. Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) played the confused Therese to perfection while Blanchett proved once again why she deserved that Oscar gold (Blue Jasmine) in a fantastic little scene as she pleaded with Harge one last time.

Edward Lachman’s cinematography was very unflattering. It added a much needed realism to the piece BUT was far too grainy and just terrible to look at. Carter Burwell’s musical score created the perfect mood setting and worked really well with the scenes.

I also didn’t expect to see Cory “The Riddler” Michael Smith from Gotham in a surprising supporting role.

Carol was definitely worth a watch to see two fantastic actresses at their best BUT I needed a little more story told in a shorter pace. There were a couple of things I didn’t expect BUT it still ended with the same end result. Shame.

2.5/5

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JOHN WICK REVIEW

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Woah! If you’re looking for a half decent action flick, I’d pick Wick.

An ex-hitman (Keanu Reeves) comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.

Reeves’ deadpan delivery and ultra-serious demeanour have finally found its home.

This is probably the best I’ve seen him act in some time. His whispery voice, stone faced pallor and wooden delivery suited the mystery action man.

What I liked about John Wick was that it didn’t mess around. It set the premise up and got down to business. The only gripe I had about the opening was that it was a flashback. We watch Wick collapse to the floor bleeding out while looking at a video of his wife.

It wasn’t necessary and while everything else was entertaining enough, that little niggle kept reminding me that this was all a flashback. The hitman will get hit.

Wick gets the adorable little beagle within the first few minutes. And loses him with fifteen. I kid you not.

We get a sense of the isolated life that John has made for himself straight away. You could relate to his frustration and aggression quite easily. His angry test track burn out on an empty airfield demonstrated that perfectly.

I expected more flashbacks or flickers between him and his wife. Bridget Moynahan (Blue Bloods) had the easiest job going. What is it with directors giving talented supporting actresses meaningless roles? An extra could have played her part.

Now I must reiterate that this is not just a revenge movie over a dog. Apologies to the RSPCA lovers but the dog is merely a symbol of John’s love and grief. The fact he was not allowed to grieve.

That right metaphorically taken from him in the form of a bludgeoned beagle. The death was off screen and done as subtly as possible for anyone who doesn’t fancy seeing a little pup punished. So John seeks out vengeance on the idiots who thought it was funny to cross him.

If anything, it was all over a car. A Mustang. Wick didn’t want to sell and Alfie Allen’s cocky spoilt gangster brat Iosef Tarasov REALLY wanted it. What a fool. He really picked the wrong guy.

Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones) may be getting type cast at the moment with playing creeps but he does it so well. A snarly little toe rag in desperate need of a slap or two.

The mystery surrounding Wick and his past are never really explained or explored. It’s infuriating in one instance but great in another. I loved the respect and code of honour among the gangsters and assassins in this seemingly ruthless and cutthroat business.

Michael Nyqvist (The original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) was superb. A perfect adversary to Wick. His reaction when his son informs him that he has stolen from Wick. Fear, terror and anger.

The build up was just right. The gangsters preparing for battle. Wick breaking up a hidden briefcase with gold and guns under his concrete floor. You know. The usual.

The gold? Some strange currency that the assassins pay each other off with. Baffling. A gold coin here and there. No questions asked.

I like to have everything resolved. It’s not as if everything wasn’t self explanatory. BUT I wanted to know more about the underbelly and society that Wick desperately tried to escape. Not bad for a shoot em up. I actually wanted to know more about the story.

The hotel was an interesting set up. It added an extra dimension to something that should have been a bog standard actioner. The establishment even has rules. No killing without cause or authority. Mental.

There was quite a good supporting cast. Shame that some weren’t really used to their full potential. Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights) was stunning as the sultry assassin out to break said rules. Ian McShane (Deadwood) was pretty much Ian McShane but played the hotel owner Winston with aplomb. I wanted more of him. Scene stealing at every chance.

John Leguizamo and Lance Reddick (Fringe) were reduced to small roles. They did their best with the parts. Reddick with his stern prowess as The Hotel Manager being a particular highlight.

Considering Reeves is 50, he can still kick an ass or two. Not quite ready for the Expendables scrap heap yet. If a Matrix reboot (Because let’s be honest, it’s only a matter of time) was ever on the cards, he could still do it.

The fight sequences were fast, frantic and furious. If a little repetitive. There are so many hand gun combinations you can do in a fight scene without them being flat out ridiculous or just tedious.

It was a lot better than I expected. Violent, brutal and mental in one instance. Mysterious and intriguing the next. The pace may dither in parts and the end result was always going to be a predictable one but I can certainly commend the writers for trying to do something a little different or at least make it worth watching.

3/5

THE DROP REVIEW

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Tom Hardy’s performance certainly got the drop on me.

He proves yet again why he is one of the most versatile actors going.

So what’s it all about? Bob Saginowski (Hardy) finds himself at the centre of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighbourhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living. No matter the cost.

Penned and adapted from a short by Dennis Lehane, I knew I was in for a treat. Lehane has been responsible for some of the better crime dramas and thrillers of the last few years; Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River and Shutter Island.

It was also a fantastic and fitting endnote for the career of another talented actor who left us too soon. I’m looking at you, Big T. Mr Soprano himself, James Gandolfini.

BUT despite the fantastic casting, the pace leaves a little to be desired and the story? Considering the hype about killer twists. I found it all a little too simple and predictable.

Lehane’s work us very much in touch with my favourite genre, the film noir. The characters and seedy underworld were certainly captured perfectly by director Michael R. Roskam. Complimented by the grainy cinematography of Nicolas Karakatsanis.

BUT the convoluted, multi-layered story line? Not so much.

It did leave me wanting a little afterwards. All that promise and a twist that I saw coming a mile off. A shame.

BUT that’s not to say it isn’t worth checking out. Hardy is a charismatic lead, who has great chemistry with the equally talented Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).

Rapace played the anxious and hesitant Nadia perfectly. Her role and motive questionable throughout.

The pair worked well together and I didn’t mind following them as their relationship inevitably blossomed.

Their bonding was helped by the discovery of an abused puppy that Bob finds in a trash can.

Rocco the puppy was adorable (What? He was. Losing man points like crazy). It lightened up the dark, gritty undertones bubbling beneath the surface which killed the atmosphere a little bit.

BUT if the little pup didn’t appear, there wasn’t much else going on to begin with.

It also allowed for Bob to break his shy demeanour and pry into his background a little.

Oh! James Gandolfini was superb. To be honest, there wasn’t enough of him. I couldn’t help but feel that his character Cousin Marv was nothing more than a “What If . . . Tony Soprano went in Witness Protection and became a bar owner”.

His presence and delivery stole every frame. No, not like that. His one liners just made me want to go back and watch The Sopranos all over again. Marv’s fractious relationship with Bob was an interesting one to watch.

The tension slowly building as tempers rose. The pressure mounting from their business interests under the vague title of “The Armenian Mob”.

However, as the mayhem ensued, I felt Gandolfini’s character took a back seat. Understandably to an extent, without spoiling any content BUT still a little disappointing.

Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead) was also fantastic. A nasty piece of work. Chewing up every bit of suspense. A ticking time bomb. His predatory stalking was a masterclass in suspense.

First toying with Bob by asking for an umbrella and gradually making his presence known more and more. The kitchen scene with Rapace was nail biting stuff.

Morgan Spector and Michael Aronov played the roles of the Armenians quite well. BUT at the same time, despite putting pressure on our sparring bartenders, I felt they were a little wooden and by the end, nothing more than stereotypical foreign mafia guys. Shame.

The closing 20 minutes HOWEVER were tense, suspenseful and brilliant. Double crossing and backstabbing galore. I just wish there was more of this throughout.

I won’t divulge too much information but perceptions are changed. The slow burning tension did meander and sizzle a little too much for the 106 minute running time.

I felt John Ortiz’s (Silver Linings Playbook) role was completely unnecessary. Nothing more than a suspense catalyst. And a poor one at that.

Re-appearing when the film seemed to lull or asking rather mundane questions after a nasty bit of business had gone down. Even his covert dark alleyway rendezvouses with fellow officers led nowhere.

Merely relaying information we already knew from Big T but with a much flatter and duller delivery.

I kept hoping his character would go somewhere (Preferably out of this movie). BUT nope! Not even the final exchanges in the closing minutes were revelatory or needed. Weak.

Suspenseful, tense and brutal (in parts) but also a little predictable and long at the tooth. However, Hardy has certainly established himself in the big leagues and with performances like these, he will continue to do so.

And farewell Big T. One final – CUT TO BLACK.

3/5

CARRIE REVIEW

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Films cannot Carrie on like this. Yeah time for some bad punnery!

Random reactions through out the film – Why is Julianne Moore banging her head like Dobby from Harry Potter? All that’s missing is a . . . Oh nope there it is . . . putting her in a cupboard under the stairs. This remake is just a demented Hermione if she didn’t go to Hogwarts and her mother was a bible preaching loony. She just punched her with the Bible. Dayum!

Chloe Grace Moretz is quite pretty. Wait, how old? 16? Moving on . . . Bit uncomfortable watching this shower scene with four dudes, feel dirty. What is the deal with the gym teacher? Is she grooming the students? Please tell she is not walking around with that on her shorts. Oh, she is. Yikes. Blasted CGI. Did Carrie just do a Hulk Smash?!

Evacuating the cinema – Verdict: (Shakes head and shrugs) Watchable at best.  Played parts well. But the CGI? Really?! Original way, way better than this!

Best line of the film: “I can see your dirty pillows!”

What’s it about san? Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) is the high school weird girl, tormented by her classmates and psychologically abused by her Bible-bashing mother (Julianne Moore). And then she discovers her telekinetic powers and so it begins . . .

What do you think bruv? Firstly, I wasn’t happy to hear a remake had been done. I didn’t feel the original had lost any of it’s suspense and horror, apart from the 70s garb. However, I felt slightly relieved in hearing Moretz and Moore were the lead protagonists. After a creepy opening sequence, it seemed promising. Moretz and Moore played the parts perfectly and a lot of the crucial plot points were covered. However, this film raises that unfortunate question, if Carrie was made now, what would you expect it to be like?

And this delivers my expectation. Cliched characters regurgitating covered ground with an over-indulgence on CGI. The gory finale was watchable, if utterly ridiculous. The original was simple, basic, and created more tension. It was Spacek’s stare that freaked me out more than the attack. You were awaiting her fate and feared what she would do. You genuinely wanted to know where the film was going.

To keep the attention of younger film-goers, Carrie deals with her telekinesis very early on and the film zips along, rushing to the finale, afraid to let the film linger and built suspense. It seems that you’re just looking at your watch waiting for the finale to appear. Portia Doubleday played the bitchy high school bully brilliantly, whilst Gabriella Wilde’s Sue Snell character is so passive, that if it was not for her “act of generosity” in allowing Carrie to go to the prom with her boyfriend, she would have been completely irrelevant.

Moretz brings dimension and sympathy to her character and the bullying shower scene is dealt with well. Judy Greer’s gym teacher is fantastic, to start with, being the mother figure that Carrie desperately craves.

However, as the film progresses, it skims across points more and more and the finale is mental. The CGI killed all suspense and I could hardly call this a horror, more a gory thriller to an extent. People being whipped with electrical wires, Carrie floating around and her Hulk like concrete stomping. There were a couple of inventive gory death scenes.

However, despite the best efforts of a great cast, the story borders on self-parody, especially with Julianne Moore’s brilliantly creepy, if hilariously mental, mother’s punishment of Carrie White. Greer turns into a sassy teacher that grooms her students and flirts with the younger teenage lads. It seems to throw the plot out of the window for an-all out frenzy!

Carrie (2013) exemplifies that film production companies need to stop remaking films that were, and still are, good. Okay, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake is the exception! Why not remake something that was shit to begin with? Why remake Robocop and Spiderman? Talks of a Lethal Weapon remake are still circulating.

Hardly the worst film of the year. Doesn’t completely soil the original but doesn’t help it. Scary? Hell no. Weird. Not bad, quite creepy. Suspenseful. Nope. Bordering on Scary Movie territory? Tragically, almost. For lovers of the original, avoid but for those who haven’t and love gore, worth a watch. I can’t Carrie on watching films like this 2.5/5

Currently ranks #143 out of 178!