*NEW* DETROIT REVIEW *NEW*

Tense, riveting if a little long at the tooth.

Fact-based drama set during the 1967 Detroit riots in which a group of rogue police officers respond to a complaint with retribution rather than justice on their minds.

The animated opening credits sequence about African migration during WW1 and WW2 was a little disjointed. The important issue was the overcrowded African American ghettos in the 60s.

The focal point of this piece. The growing frustration and rocky tension captured perfectly during a botched raid at an unlicensed nightclub.

You could have cut the tension with a knife as the white police officers tried to prevent unrest by arresting suspects away from the Main Street.

An attempt that proved pointless as the crowds gathered and the violence began. I loved how director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal looked at both sides to this disheartening affair.

You supported the forces during the initial looting and rioting. BUT by day two, they completely mishandled the situation. Beating and shooting looters for stealing food?

And let’s not forget, the trigger happy military looking for any excuse. Shooting at a child in a fifth storey building after mistaking her for a sniper. Horrendous.

I was really surprised and impressed at the British/Irish talent involved; Jack Reynor (Sing Street), John Boyega (Attack The Block) and Hannah Murray (Skins).

BUT Will Poulter stole the show for me. He played the shady Krauss brilliantly. The Son of Rambow star has come a long way. A complete change in direction from the comedy circuit and a mature performance.

Hell, those brows made him look evil. As a side note, if there is going to be a solo Joker movie (without Leto); this guy deserves a look in, surely?

Krauss’ decision making and inability to accept blame was frustrating, to say the least.

I loved the contrast between Krauss and Dismukes (Boyega). One going out of his way to cause destruction, the other doing his best to keep the peace.

Dismukes was an interesting character. A man just trying to do his job and avoid bloodshed. Branded an “Uncle Tom” of the streets for not rising up.

Crossing between the bordered up store fronts and military barricades to offer assistance where he could. I just wish there was more of that.

As much as I enjoyed the Dramatics’ Motown music and felt for them as they missed the gig of a lifetime due to rioting, the pace did test. The only thing I found Bigelow movies (of late) suffering from.

The middle act was where I could feel my interest wading. Don’t get me wrong. The cast involved with the Dramatics were brilliant and Algee Smith (Earth to Echo) had a fantastic voice!

I just felt the motel mingling, Coltrane talk and white power discussions meandered the piece. That was until a silly prank with a start-up pistol set off so much more.

The next hour, I was shocked and transfixed as Krauss’ team made one gruesome mistake after another.

The pressure mounting as they struggle to find a suspect or a gun. I will always commend Bigelow for delivering nail-biting suspense; Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker, Point Break (What?)

Regular Bigelow stalwart Barry Ackroyd’s grainy cinematography certainly brought a little more realism to it BUT the shaky cam (Like The Hurt Locker) was incredibly disorienting and erratic in places.

There was only so much yelling, swearing (and dropping of the N bomb) and gospel singing I could take as the hold-up reached breaking point.

The sick interrogation tactics had me on tenterhooks. Putting knives near the “suspects” as a ploy to use the “act of self-defence”. Horrifying.

Hannah Murray was surprisingly good. I’m used to seeing her playing drugged up or gormless protagonist.  You felt for her character as she was accused of being a prostitute for having no standards for sleeping with black men.

I didn’t expect to see Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Civil War) pop up in this as Krauss’ “prime suspect”. A war vet who escaped one war zone to join another. The punishment he received was mortifying. Desperately goading him into reacting.

The pace did test BUT the main thing I was disappointed with was Boyega. He is a great actor BUT his character grew increasingly passive as the film reached its shocking conclusion. His presence fading further into the background.

If not for a gruelling police investigation (A mockery in itself) after the Algiers Motel, I would have deemed his character unnecessary. Another bystander.

BUT the aftermath of The Algiers Motel was where it hit home.

The court scenes were infuriating. The injustice of it all as the cops strolled out the court house smirking. The legal system taking the side of the ones who were supposed to be protecting NOT abusing it. Regardless of the facts and accounts.

The abrupt finale went out with a whimper. BUT that was kind of the point.

I couldn’t believe the post-credit titles at what happened to the people involved. The case never really given true justice.

I can’t say it’s a good film (in the context of what it was about) BUT it delivered an atmospheric thriller with substance that is worth your attention.

3.5/5

*NEW* WAR MACHINE REVIEW *NEW*

A misfire on all fronts.

Not funny enough to be a satire and not hard hitting enough to be taken seriously.

What drove Pitt to do this?

A successful, charismatic four-star general, Glenn McMahon (Brad Pitt) leaps in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by a journalist’s no-holds-barred exposé.

My reaction while watching this drab affair.

To describe Glenn McMahon, I would have to say that “he was a throwback to another era”.

A bit like the actor that’s playing him.

I didn’t know anything about McMahon before approaching this and after watching War Machine, I certainly don’t want to.

I don’t know whether that was down to Pitt’s performance. BUT it was a joke for all the wrong reasons.

His gruff voice, the face pulling and that weird run? Jogging about the place like he had the sh*ts.

I’m sure it was supposed to be comical BUT it was hard to show empathy towards a complete simpleton. Was that the punch line?

Despite the overlong running length, it was surprisingly watchable as McMahon made his assessments. Scoot McNairy’s droning commentary delivered some insightful quips BUT it went on a bit.

Free reign over his command as long as it didn’t involve bringing in more troops. Therein lies the rub.

Desperate to make some sort of impact and constantly dictated to by office bureaucrats and civilian advisors; it wasn’t long before McMahon realised he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

The tone was dreadfully mismatched. The Men Who Stare At Goats meets Jarhead vibe didn’t really work.

For all the shocking statistics and political sniping, there wasn’t really much going on.

That’s not to say that there weren’t moments to be had. I did laugh when McMahon mistook two Muslims for praying when they were actually trying to install a BluRay player.

The hypocrisy was ridiculous when Glenn demanded to know why Afghan farmers were growing opiates instead of cotton and wheat.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised at the reasoning: “US cultivation funds will not support the production of a material that can be distributed in the world market and go in direct competition with the US. So we’re growing heroin instead”.

“People will vote for whoever their local squad tells them to in fear of having their heads chopped off”.

At one point, the man was literally left twiddling his thumbs for a month while he waited for the Afghan elections to finish.

The irony even more bittersweet when the US bureaucrats were dissatisfied with the outcome and fixed another to find a more suitable candidate.

A bit like now, really?

I remember Topher Grace (That ‘70s Show) being a good actor. It’s a shame he keeps getting in films that don’t let him do that. Highly unmemorable.

The same could be said for the majority of the supporting cast. Such a waste.

Sir Ben Kingsley was disappointing as President Karzai. He did his best with the material BUT it wasn’t enough.

Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) stood out as the disillusioned Corporal Billy Cole. His frustration at the troop’s increasingly vague objectives was spot on.

Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) played the shady government advisor Pat McKinnon well. The true orchestrator of this messy affair.

“The longer you stay, the worse it will be for us all. Please leave now”.

You could feel for McMahon’s frustration as he genuinely believed the manure he was shovelling. Receiving no “face time” with the President other than a passing handshake during a “Meet ‘n’ Greet”.

The man leaked his own report just to get the ball rolling. And even then he was short changed reinforcements by 10,000 men!

McMahon’s estranged relationship with his wife made for uncomfortable viewing. Equating the time they spent together to less than 30 days over the last 8 years. There was zero chemistry and killed the pace like a lead balloon.

It didn’t help that McMahon came across as such a tool.

His cross-examination in Berlin by a belligerent journalist (Tilda Swinton) was like wathcing a deer in headlights.

There may have been valid points BUT it was just one big rant aimed at an emotionally detached military figure.

I’m not sure whether that feeling of detachment was supposed to be the main theme of the piece BUT it was difficult for me to connect or care about the characters involved.

The closing attack on Helmand was dull and drawn out with the end result predictable and uninteresting.

Like the protagonist, War Machine felt lost in translation. I was left questioning what the filmmakers were trying to do.

This would have been more hard hitting 10 years ago when we had that initial influx of Gulf war movies; Jarhead, In The Valley of Elah, The Hurt Locker.

Calling Obama’s administration weak and hypocritical when the man has already left office seemed a little pointless.

Watchable BUT I can’t say riveting or enlightening.

Despite some eye-opening encounters, this was still a disappointing misfire that failed to deliver enough hard-hitting drama or entertaining humour.

2/5

*NEW* ARRIVAL REVIEW *NEW*

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The next Interstellar. Brilliant . . . if you liked that movie.

Unfortunately, I didn’t. You can see where I’m heading with this.

A linguist (Amy Adams) is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

The endless Twitter trends, the crazy hype train. I was actually excited to see what the man who brought us Prisoners could deliver.

I’m not going to lie. By the time the credits rolled, I was left feeling a little disappointed.

An emotionally charged opening sequence (that rivalled Up) plucked on the heartstrings as we followed Louise’s (Adams – Nocturnal Animals) relationship with her daughter over the blossoming years. Right up to her swift and tragic illness.

Bleak, heartbreaking and we hadn’t even got to the aliens yet. The pace was left to simmer away and I was happy to allow the bubbling tension and theorising develop as Louise was recruited by Weber (Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland) after 12 strange objects descended from the sky.

Adams was superb and delivered a sterling turn. She really carried the film for me.

I wish more was made out of the supporting cast. Whitaker disappeared into the background far too much and Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire) was completely wasted in his role as the shady Agent Halpern. Just another generic government agent.

The only other actor to make a memorable impression was Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker). His quips and chemistry with Adams was a much needed presence as the pair worked together to assess whether our new visitors were friend or foe.

I was actually quite impressed by how writers Eric Heisserer and Ted Chiang thought up such a situation. It was almost believable in a way if a superior race were to suddenly appear and try to communicate in an indecipherable and unknown language.

The special effects and CGI on the strange tentacly guests were fantastic. The motion capture methods to create their movements was impressive. They reminded me a little of the jellyfish things from Monsters.

The cryptography and puzzle solving as Louise and co. tried to form a dialogue was intriguing enough BUT by the 60 minute marker, I could feel my patience wading. My interest lost. I didn’t even mind that we hadn’t received any answers or real questions to ask the sinister looking squid things.

BUT the pace really did drag and it was like pulling teeth out to get anywhere. The constant flashbacks to Louise’s daughter and bizarre dream sequences (at first haunting and hypnotic) soon irritated and numbed me into a mini-coma.

Thankfully as the growing tension and civil unrest across the world forced the UN to make a (predictable) decision, I was soon pulled back in.

The paranoia and suspense finally going somewhere with the military desperate to scratch those itchy trigger fingers.

The rising insurgence among the ranks. The hidden agendas from the international compatriots. The world in arrears. If anything, this was all too realistic with China and Russia refusing to share information and desperate to cut ties and eradicate this unknown presence.

All spurned on from one word (Finally deciphered) as “WEAPON”. A reference? A threat? A simple misinterpretation from the linguistic team?

The final 20 minutes was frantic, thrilling and . . . unexpected BUT rewarding?

I won’t say too much about the ending. BUT I will admit that I’m NOT the biggest sci-fi fan. Blade Runner, Alien, Twelve Monkeys, Looper; sign me up. Anything else . . . meh. Once I heard the phrase, “non-linear time difference”, the wind had been knocked out of my sails.

Like Interstellar, Arrival delivered a cleverly woven ending with time paradoxes and hidden meanings galore.

I was afraid that I missed something. I checked the forums and discussed theories and realised I had it sussed the first time. BUT for all the hype and twists and turns, it just didn’t grab me. I wasn’t caught up in it as much as I hoped.

It was good BUT . . . a defining science fiction film? 5/5? Film of the year? I don’t think I’ll remember this by next month.

Maybe it was a case of hype hindering rather than helping. I felt the same for Sicario. Wondering if people had never seen a movie about the underbelly of the Mexican border before.

If Adams wasn’t at the helm, I don’t think my interest would have been grabbed at all. I felt for her character, shared in her grief and frustration as the ever-impending deadline pressed on.

I didn’t hate it. There were genuine moments of suspense and tension. I don’t know how Bradford Young’s grainy cinematography could make a scene look so bleak and beautiful at the same time.

Johann Johannsson’s musical score was sublime. It was perfectly composed and really heightened the mood and emotion of the scenes. Especially in the closing moments.

A clever, well acted, if muddled and drawn out affair for me. It certainly left for food for thought BUT one to remember?

I’ll leave that to you.

3/5

CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER REVIEW

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A welcome return from the First Avenger!

As Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he teams up with a fellow Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to battle a new threat from history: an assassin known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

An enjoyable action packed romp. I felt Captain America: The First Avenger showed promise with a good set of characters that I hoped would have exploited the untapped World War backdrop. BUT alas it was not to be. Rushed to meet that Avengers Assemble release date, I was left feeling a little disappointed.

Right up to this point, some of the entries had been mixed (Despite my love of the Marvel universe) from the rehashed Hulk origin stories (Team Bana all the way!) to the brilliant Thor films. The first Avengers was over-hyped, overlong and OTT for me. Redeemed by an action packed finale.

However, this inevitable sequel (in a number of relentless comic book movies in the pipeline) managed to stand on its own, improve on the Cap franchise and make itself a worthy addition.

Despite my grumblings at how swift Rogers was pushed from WW2 to the present, WS made up for it by focusing on his transition. Providing some much needed depth. A man catching up with the times. A joke involving a “Things to check out on the Internet” list was nicely done.

However, a new war is brewing under the clean streets of Washington, one that compromises the very organisation of SHIELD, leading to an action packed, octane thrill ride (that is a little long at 136 minutes) that questions the Cap’s very ethics and honour. With a new war comes a whole new set of rules and lines he doesn’t want to cross.

The action set pieces were great to watch. The fight scenes were intense and brilliantly choreographed. The 3D element left much to be desired, apart from the explosive finale. Not a necessity in your viewing experience.

Evans was fantastic. He is Captain America. His presence, his build (The dude is hench!) and his performance were spot on. He had great chemistry with ScarJo. Is there a brewing superhero romance on the cards?

The directing duo The Russo brothers even managed to introduce and revamp another Marvel addition quite well. It helped having Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) taking on the role. Not enough of Falcon in my opinion. I loved the partnership between him and the Cap. More please.

Samuel L (the L stands for Mother – you get the idea) Jackson unleashes the Fury (ah ha) at last. Finally being brought into the action and given more screen time.

It might help to have watched the other entries to fill in the gaps BUT it’s not essential as the film does recap over crucial plot points for those who haven’t (or might have forgotten).

The Winter Solider was a worthy foe. However, his big reveal was hardly a twist or a shock. A bit too much build up and emphasis on that moment. I was great to see Robert Redford and he played the sinister Congressman Alexander Pierce to perfection. He does unfortunately dither into the background BUT the guy is nearly 80 so I’ll give him a break.

The supporting cast was impressive, if maybe wasted a little. Cudos to Maximiliano Hernandez for his turn as Jasper Sitwell (Marvel Agents of SHIELD TV fans will know). I had to laugh at Pierce’s Board Room of Doom featuring the likes of Jenny Agutter (An American Werewolf in London) and . . . Jim from Neighbours (Alan Dale).

Frank Grillo (The Purge) was menacing. While, the beautiful Emily Van Camp (Revenge), talented though she is, was given a relatively minor and passive role. Anyone could have played her. If not for a little twist, well if you can call it that, her character would have been pointless.

There may be plot holes and a questionable length BUT with decent set pieces, balanced humour and an actual story line that fleshed out the Cap, my faith has been restored in the First Avenger and I look forward to the next one.

3.5/5

Of course, stay for the credits for a mid-credit reveal. Don’t say to the very end, the clip was pointless. You might as well have had Stan Lee pop up and say, “You still here?”

STARRED UP REVIEW

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Scum, this ain’t san. A slow hard boiled film that doesn’t deserve to be locked up and is reprieved by an unexpected brutal climax and a very talented cast.

It’s great to see low budget British films like this getting recognized and put out on the cinema circuit. We follow the incredibly volatile Eric Love (Jack Connell) as he is transferred to an adult prison and ends up in the same wing as his old man, the even more explosive Neville Love (Ben Mendelsohn). Director David Mackenzie excels at providing a grim look at the prison system. What starts as a good opener as we go through the check in procedure (strip search, etc) at the prison soon meanders along, bordering on a Porridge parody. I mean once Eric walks through one walkway, we don’t need to see several. Connell is fantastic and gives a stellar performance. His character to start with is very unlikeable as he goes out of his way to make trouble. But through his bravado and dominance, you can’t stop watching him. And once he meets his father, a fantastically creepy Mendelsohn, we soon get a better insight into Eric and see why he is the way he is. The only problem Connell has always excelled at playing the hard man. You can only worry that he will be type cast but if he plays the part so well, does it matter.

Starred Up is gritty, violent, at times brutal but beneath that, Mackenzie does try and make a statement about young offenders and the inner workings of the prison, providing an all too realistic insight. This is demonstrated perfectly in the “anger management” class sessions led by posho volunteer Oliver (another stand out performance from Rupert Friend – Quinn from Homeland). His unique style and questionable motives make for good viewing as he desperately tries to help the offenders, a well acted bunch of British bandits; David Ajala, Anthony Welsh, David Avery, Ashley Chin and Gershwyn Eustache Jnr. This is where the film stood out from all the usual Scum spiel that has been ripped off endlessly. Eric’s erratic behaviour is crazy, at times brutal and at one point, hilarious. But once he flies off the handle, the more times he does it and effs and blinds with some (granted) memorable quotes, it gets irritating but that is the point. That is why he is here. The sessions allow us to see his vulnerability and makes for some great moments and banter as he bonds with the class.

As we delve deeper into the prison, you see that not even the powers that be are any better. Sam Spruell (The Hurt Locker) and Sian Breckin (recently featured in BBC’s Truckers) playing the shifty governors working and undoing Oliver’s work. However, where it excels in violence, testosterone, good characters and great acting, the film lacks in pace and stutters along. The hype helps draw attention but the first hour doesn’t justify it for me. However, the last half hour makes for crucial watching and redeems a film that was starting to lose my attention and questioned whether this should have been put on FilmFour as one of their TV movie premieres. However, it all seemed to be brewing up for one big climax (steady now) that is brilliantly done, compelling and endearing. All in all, a mixed bag but one of the better ones. The best prison film? Not for me san. But certainly not the worst. Mackenzie is definitely going to be one to watch for me now. 3.5/5

Currently ranks #48 out of 155!