*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* JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK REVIEW *NEW*

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Generic by the book (OR NOT if you’re a fan) actioner that killed the time BUT offered little else.

Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. BUT on the run as a fugitive from the law, he uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

I’ve never read the Lee Child novels and I know a lot of fans were not happy to hear that the six foot blonde super soldier was being taken on by the 54 year old hobbit Tom Cruise. BUT I really liked Reacher’s first foray onto the silver screen. It was quick witted, dark, gritty and action packed.

I was actually looking forward to the sequel BUT by the time the credits rolled, I was left feeling disappointed. Reuniting with The Last Samurai director Edward Zwick, I expected so much more from Cruise and co.

The opening delivered with Reacher held up at a diner. A trail of unconscious men welcoming the local law enforcement. “There are two things that are going to happen”. Once that phone rang in the background, I cracked a grin.

It felt like we hadn’t left him. A shame that momentum couldn’t be carried on. While the elongated title sequence and credits flashed across the screen, we watched Reacher finding solace in talking with Major Turner (Cobie Smulders). It was a little too corny for my liking as the pair struck up a friendship and agreed to meet for a date. Awww. Yuck.

However, things did pick up as Reacher finally arrived at Washington only to discover that Turner had been arrested for treason.

The next 30 minutes or so I was engrossed in the cloak and dagger stuff as the military went out of their way to stop Reacher sniffing around. Holt McCallany (Gangster Squad) was brilliant as the slimy Colonel Morgan.

If anything, I wish his character was in it more. He was a better villain than Patrick Heusinger (Black Swan). He may have had a cool title as The Hunter BUT he was too one dimensional to care about. He did his best BUT he was just another stock baddie. It didn’t help that the script didn’t have any clever dialogue. The lines were so flat and dull.

It was missing something. Christopher McQuarrie’s (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) direction. The snappy one liners. The suspense. Even the car chases didn’t impress. It was watchable and the shoot out sequences and punch em ups were entertaining enough BUT they soon grew tedious and predictable as the running time staggered along.

Whilst trying to discover the reason for Turner’s incarceration, Reacher was sandbagged with the news that he may have a daughter. Danika Yarosh (Heroes Reborn) played Samatha well and there were moments to be had as the hard man struggled to impose control over a teenager BUT it was cliched to boot.

Cobie Smulders (Yes, she does. What?!) wasn’t too bad as Turner. It was good to see the How I Met Your Mother star finally get a meatier role. A shame that her character was too much like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’s Maria Hill. She just tried to out-Reacher Reacher for the majority of the film BUT it just didn’t work.

The machismo talk between the pair did spark a snappy little argument on who would protect Samantha. Reacher telling Turner to stay behind on the grounds of being a woman. In a different film, this could have been something BUT it came off hammy and poorly timed.

Even the story line didn’t offer that much. I actually got lost at one point as Reacher and co found a lead out of nowhere BUT it was merely another excuse for another drawn out ultra-violent punch up.

And after all that mystery and build up, the reveal was so disappointing and predictable. Another generic thriller with a bog standard twist. Cruise did his best with the part BUT I have to agree with my mate who said that Reacher has become nothing more than an Ethan Hunt spin-off series.

It wasn’t bad by any means. If you’re in the mood for a frantic shoot em up to kill the time, then give it a go. Just don’t expect too much.

2.5/5

MR HOLMES REVIEW

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Can one of Britain’s biggest screen icons take on one of the most iconic literary figures? The answer is elementary, my dear movie minions.

Sublime. From the moment, the stern sleuth corrected a child on his error for mistaking a wasp for a bee, I knew I was for in a treat. A superb performance from Sir Ian McKellen.

An aged, retired Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) looks back on his life, and grapples with an unsolved case involving a beautiful woman (Hattie Morahan).

I’m not the world’s biggest Sherlock fan. The endless entries and reboots in both TV and film, despite having two charismatic leads, in Robert Downey Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch were overlong, over-hyped and needlessly complex. Watchable enough.

However, this take on the man behind the myth made for good viewing. McKellen’s charisma really carried the film as Mr Holmes attempts to recollect the details of his last case. The case that he never solved and forced him to exile to the pastoral countryside.

If you’re expecting an affair like the RDJ movies and Cucumberbatch TV series, you may be left disappointed. This is very much a slow burning yarn as Holmes must re-evaluate his life’s work and come to terms with his own mortality.

They really made McKellen look old and haggard. I mean obviously the screen icon is 76 but it’s mad how a few more lines and a hunched posture can change everything.

The story line flicks back and forth. Each flashback a little disjointed piece of a bigger puzzle. The only niggle I had with the continuity is that McKellen only looks a few years younger when the case is supposed to be 30 years old. Tut tut tut. McKellen can act as spritely as he wants. He can’t hide those greys. But only a niggle.

The structure worked really well as each development of the case coincided with a development in Holmes’ condition.

The case appears relatively simple. A suspicious husband curious of his wife’s activities. BUT of course in typical Holmes fashion, not everything is as it seems.

Hattie Morahan (The Bletchley Circle) played the wife well. BUT the case, for all its anticipated mystery and suspense, was a little disappointing. The puzzle solving was fun enough. BUT the unravelling wasn’t really that riveting or as rewarding as I hoped.

I was left wanting. There was one sobering moment that did surprise me. BUT the fantastic supporting cast were not used to their full potential and that was down to their poor characters.

Frances De La Tour (Rising Damp) certainly did a better job at a German accent than she did an American one in Survivor. BUT for all her flamboyance, the character was merely a weak red herring.

Roger Allam (The Queen) did the best that he could with his stoic doctor role and Philip Davis (Vera Drake) was merely a passing cameo with his detective. Shame.

What did stand out for me was the myth breaking of the man. The jokes about his deer stalker hat and pipe were brilliant. Merely for McKellen’s reaction. “I don’t smoke a pipe! I like the occasional cigar”.

I did get a chuckle as the miserable mystery man laughed at one of his latest screen offerings at the local pictures. Tutting and sighing away at the stupidity and inaccuracy of it all. His constant complaining of Watson’s exaggerations on his appearance, cases and life were entertaining.

Holmes’ memory loss made for sombre viewing. Forced to write dots in a diary when he forgets a name, place, date. It really hit home when Holmes couldn’t even remember the name of the housekeeper’s son Roger (Milo Parker) whom he had grown fond of. Quickly looking to the name he had written on his cuff.

McKellen and Parker were brilliant together. A stubborn old man versus a deductive, energetic fan. Parker will certainly be one to watch for the future. A strong performance. I really liked their relationship and it lightened the tone of a very serious case. A surrogate Watson, if you may.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I was too impressed with Roger’s mother. Laura Linney’s housekeeper was a mixed bag. I loved her in The Big C and I certainly felt for her character as she struggled to keep up with her son’s developing intellect. BUT what didn’t help was that her accent was so muddled. She really couldn’t grasp it and you could tell. It really grated against me. Each line felt like the bellow of a strangled cat. Well, maybe not that bad.

The story did lag in places and dither into random tangents which did have me questioning, “Where was this going?”. A quest for a miraculous herb known as ‘Prickly Ash’ in Japan felt a little out of place. BUT it allowed for a harrowing, if brilliantly shot sequence as Holmes ventures through the aftermath of Hiroshima.

It also unearthed Holmes’ desperation to fight his ailing condition. Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai)’s herb finder role seemed too tame and a thin subplot involving his father didn’t seem to make much sense.

However, the final quarter was unexpected. And all the little questions I had soon fell into place rounding everything perfectly. I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with something more. I just wish that Holmes’ last case was much more memorable for the cast and the man. BUT the closing moments were written brilliantly and acted to perfection.

McKellen is everything you could imagine. The cast did their best. The case left little for desire.

BUT I would still recommend.

3/5

GODZILLA REVIEW

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Godzilla? God help us. I really wanted this to work but yet again another reboot fails to hit the mark by it’s hero’s gargantuan tail. A drawn out, plot holed mess that if not for a promising 15 minute finale would have been a complete fossil. This poor piece of dino doodoo goes out with a yawn than a ROAR!

When I heard that Gareth Edwards, the man who gave us the low budgeted apocalyptic cult creature feature Monsters, had been green lit to direct the Godzilla reboot, I was excited. Monsters gave us a taster of his visual brilliance. Granted the story was nothing new but give him the right material and a bigger budget and Godzilla could be something. It is such a shame that I report that even with an impressive cast, this film will sink and should stay in the underwater prison that kept Godzilla away for most of the movie (You read that right).

Bryan Cranston does his best to make the technical mumbo jumbo sound interesting and plausible. Hell, the guy even speaks Japanese. But you can’t help but feel it’s just Hal from Malcolm in the Middle as an engineer. Especially when he is running, panting, and screaming quite high pitched. It’s all unintentionally hilarious. I mean it was always going to be hard for Cranston to find a suitable follow up project after the excellent Breaking Bad.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I actually preferred it’s ridiculously corny and OTT 1998 blockbuster brother, Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla. It deliberately poked fun at the hokey concept while this takes itself far too seriously (which wasn’t a problem to begin with. I mean if Christopher Nolan can do it, why not?). It just highlights the number of plot holes in the loose story line to give the humans something to do. Look I don’t care about the concept of a giant dinosaur causing havoc on the world’s major landmarks. But the problem when you have giant dinosaurs or robots (I’m looking at you, Transformers) that can survive nuclear bombs (pretty much the biggest weapon we can launch at the buggers), the only thing the human race can do as Ken Wantanabe rightly says, “Let them fight.”

Edwards obviously intended to wet our whistles, stalling the inevitable appearance of the gargantuan giant. I’m fine with that but not when we are left with naff, generic character regurgitating scientific mumbo jumbo that bores the living stuffing out of you. I mean a beautifully shot scientific expedition with Ken Wantanabe (The Last Samurai/Batman Begins) and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) that skims across The Philippines and Japan teases us with a dino skeleton here, a trail of destruction there but as you’re waiting for the hero, you realise there is no point in the scientist’s journey as it makes no sense and is completely necessary. That big budget being put to use. Alexandre Desplat’s score is suspenseful and pacey but there isn’t much suspense or tension to keep you hooked.

I mean the opening sequence with the redacted 1950s footage was a complete rip off of the Emmerich rehash. I won’t spoil too much. That being said, there wasn’t much to spoil. This was advertised all wrong. The main creatures that we are stuck following are mutated parasites, well giant cockroach things that feed off radiation and it’s up to good ol’ Zilla to sort them out. At a two hour running time, there just isn’t enough going on. Every time we see those cockroach things, we get two minutes of carnage then they fly off to another expensive location for more blockbuster budget spending. When Godzilla finally appears, the animation and visual effects are impeccable, from his expressions to his incredibly loud roar. Seriously I nearly went deaf in the cinema.

But every time he looks like he’s going to do something. The camera cuts away or flashes to the aftermath. Screw that, I want to see it! Instead we get a rather hench looking army chughead Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) sleepwalking through his lines as he suffers daddy issues with his paranoid skeptic of a father, Mr Bryan Cranston. Cranston’s angry scientist was the only thing worth watching in between the creatures popping up as if to say, “We will be fighting . . . eventually”. An unexpected twist got my attention, only to leave it open for more . . . monotonous drivel that went nowhere. Wantanabe looking white as a sheet petrified of Godzilla just becomes a parody in itself. The talented David Straitharn (The Bourne Ultimatum/Alphas) plays a stocky grunting general that asks the main question every film goer is thinking, “Where’s Godzilla?”. A character that has spawned numerous movies and hit movie history is left making a short 15 minute appearance for the “big finale”.

The little details soon irritate. When you first see the tip of his spine arise out of the ocean like something out of Jaws, a smile cracks but after half an hour, you end up screaming (quite ironically), “Get out of the water!”. When Big G gets to fight, the special effects are brilliant. But I can’t help feel that it’s a little too dark (in the visual sense, literally) to see what’s going on.

The fighting does appeared laboured and mechanical but that’s where the fun came from the classics. The special effects do nothing to spoil that. In fact they improve it. I wouldn’t waste your money on 3D, apart from the opening, where smoke and ash rains out the screen, everything else is just a little more prominent but not a massive investment.

The HALO jumping sequence was decent, especially when it flicked to the first person angle, in which we see the soldiers dive out of the plane into the ensuing fog and debris left by Godzilla and co. However, when you think back, they didn’t need to do it. Seriously.

Unfortunately, before people realise the mess that this film is, it will have already made its money and a sequel has already been green lit. But this offering has not heightened my excitement to fish out the next one. Edwards excels at the effects yet again but the love of God, give us some characters we care about.

It doesn’t offer anything for the leading ladies at all. I mean Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) had such a pointless part, anyone could have played her. The same can be said for the beautiful Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy remake), who was left either staring blankly, screaming or waiting on the phone. A shame. This had all the potential to start the blockbuster season with a BANG but only went with a BOO! Let’s hope X Men or Transformers can reward our patience. 2/5 for me.

As a side note, how cool would it have been if Heisenberg squares up to Godzilla and screams, “SAY MY NAME!”. To which Godzilla roars in subtitles, “HEISENBERG”. Then skulks away. “THIS IS MY TERRITORY!”. Maybe it will be in The Director’s Cut?!

Currently ranks #117 out of 174!