*NEW* THE ACCOUNTANT REVIEW *NEW*

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Best film of the year? Don’t count on it.

Warning contains moderate forensic accounting.

As a math savant (Ben Affleck) uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise.

An engaging action packed thriller that delivers on the punch ups BUT stumbles on the plot and pace.

Ben Affleck played the stern faced socially awkward maths wiz perfectly. Unemotional, relentless and yet beneath his cold exterior; someone desperate to connect.

The first hour was slow burning BUT engrossing as the film flicked back and forth delving into the mysterious Christian Wolff. Cold, calculated and clever.

We watched him undergo his daily routine from eating with the same cutlery to wearing the same shirt. The questions mounting as he subjected himself to strobe lighting and heavy metal music while testing his sensitivity threshold. The flashbacks teasing mere tidbits of his troubled past.

I’m happy that the actual accounting side of it all was skimmed over. In that small 15 minute segment with stats and figures flying around, my mind felt numb. No matter how enthusiastic Affleck tried to make it.

We get it. People hide money. Well done.

The accounting angle simply established the inner workings of our protagonist. A meticulous mad man intent on seeing out the task in hand.

Thankfully, that was just a introduction for Christian to meet Dana (Anna Kendrick).

Kendrick was actually quite good. A much more subtle performance. I’m normally used to her doing the usual OTT fast talking schtick in everything.

The pair had good chemistry. Their blossoming relationship may have been a little corny BUT the awkward exchanges and glances allowed us to see a different side to the hard man as he grows concerned for the quirky clerk’s safety. Dana’s attempts to make conversation with Christian was cringe-inducing BUT endearing.

The fighting sequences were fast and furious. Affleck used all that Bat-bulk to deliver some well choreographed fist fights and shoot em up gun battles.

It was only when we moved into the second hour that things fell apart at the seams. The pace could have been cut by a good 30 minutes. Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow) was completely unnecessary as Marybeth Medina. The analyst assigned to locating the accountant.

Her subplot was terrible. We endured a good portion of the film watching her regurgitate everything we already knew. She brought nothing to the fold. It didn’t help that she never caught up with the anti-hero at any point. Dismal. As much I’m a fan of J.K. Simmons; despite one revelation, anyone could have played him. If at all!

There were two areas where that time should have been spent. The first being Christian’s actual back story. The flashbacks into his past weren’t explored enough. They may have explained the type of autism that Christian had BUT I wanted more of his childhood. Especially when he had such a ruthless and unsympathetic father.

Robert C. Treveiler (The Mist) was menacing as Christian’s military dad. Refusing to accept his son’s condition and teaching him a harsh life lesson; ““If loud noises and bright lights bother him, he needs more, not less”. Forcing the boy to undergo intense training to adapt and not be a door mat.

I wanted more of this intense relationship BUT the tidbits were few and far between. Only really thrown in when the pace (tragically) dragged.

I also wish we had more of Jon Bernthal’s (The Walking Dead) Brax. A charismatic opponent and a bi-polar opposite of Christian. Not enough of him. Delivering suspense and tension with every unlucky person that had the pleasure of meeting him. A missed presence that was only really brought back for the frantic fiery finale.

John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun) and Jean Smart (24) were completely wasted in their feeble roles as Christian’s corporate clients.

BUT it wasn’t all bad. At its best, it was brutal, gripping and tense with another stellar performance from Affleck. It was just a shame that the pace and flawed plot line hampered things. Despite an ultra-violent finale, that delivered a few twists, it ended on such a bum note. Shame.

If you’re a fan of the Bourne movies, then this one is for you.

3/5

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*NEW* 50 SHADES OF GREY REVIEW *NEW*

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I’d rather look at 50 different shades of grey than endure this again.

Well, that’s what I thought I was going to say. Yeah, I can’t believe I watched it either. What did the Mad Movie Ranter make of the highest earning controversial adult movie of 2015?

In a nutshell, I didn’t mind it.

Literature student Anastasia Steele’s (Dakota Johnson) life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).

After all the negative press, Twitter bashing and that massive Razzie collection, I kept thinking to myself “Am I missing something here?”. I found this kinky little love story quite watchable. The two leads had great chemistry. The soundtrack was excellent.

Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography was hypnotic and director Sam Taylor Johnson dealt with the subject matter tastefully. And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

Scandalous? Outrageous? Not at all. Was that the problem?

I will admit I’ve never read the books. And I don’t intend to. I made the mistake of buying them as a gift for my mother completely unaware that they were essentially “book porn”. A mistake that will forever haunt me. However, 50 Shades bookworms (and Mum) gave me a little context as I prepared myself. And to be honest, it wasn’t what I expected at all.

I thought Dakota Johnson played the naive and impressionable Anastasia perfectly. Her first encounter with the mysterious Mr Grey made for watchable viewing. I wasn’t sure if Jamie Dornan would deliver (after all the rumoured names attached to the role) BUT he handled it with plenty of charm and charisma. I was only familiar with the chap from his killer role in the BBC hit show The Fall. Considering he has a thick Irish accent, he mastered the American twang brilliantly.

At its core, it was a typical cheesy love story. BUT I’m happy to watch a movie like this if the couple are engaging enough. Luckily the pair’s chemistry kept things very watchable. The whole girl falls for wealthy businessman spiel has been done to death BUT of course, there was a slight twist on it all. Because Mr Grey has a secret. Hidden in the many rooms of his lavish penthouse suite.

“I want to show you my playroom”. An odd request from the mysterious millionaire. An innocent response from the naive Anastasia, “Like your X-Box and stuff?” and I was intrigued.

I thought the S&M stuff was handled delicately as Grey shared his seedy secret. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) and writer Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr Banks) slowly introduced it into the mix as their romance blossomed. Hardly controversial or sordid. Is that why people hated it because it wasn’t rude and filthy enough? There were some raunchy moments as Anastasia was blind folded and strapped up. And Miss Johnson certainly wasn’t that shy in getting her kit off.

It was an interesting contrast seeing Anastasia’s naivety of the situation. Finding Grey’s obsession a mere game. Not fully understanding that he’s only giving her a taster. The contract meeting to keep their relationship undisclosed was laughable in its own right. BUT the fact Anastasia doesn’t take it that seriously can only spell disaster.

Apart from the odd sex scene, their romance chugged along as Grey shared his rich lifestyle with Anastasia and even introduced her to his foster family. My main quibble was that the supporting cast were wasted. A shame considering the talent; Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist), Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) and Callum Keith Rennie (Memento).

Their characters were far too weak and merely there to break up the pair fooling around. I’m aware that they may feature more in the upcoming sequels. BUT they didn’t really make much of an impression for their first outing and Rita Ora looked like she was in the wrong movie.

Apart from that, I wasn’t really bored. The pace didn’t test. The soundtrack was great (Something else somebody bought for their mum). Featuring chart hits from The Weekend and Ellie Goulding. The closing moments certainly spiced things up as Grey’s inability to share and connect, along with his kinky fixation, continued to forge cracks in their fragile relationship.

I know there was a little backlash regarding a scene involving a slap BUT I thought it raised an interesting argument between the pair and attempted to question this S&M taboo. If anything, I was a little bit annoyed because we were starting to unearth a little more into Grey’s past, the pair had a massive fight and then it just ended. Rather abruptly.

Of course, more is to follow. And despite such low ratings, it was one of the highest earning R-rated movies of the year and earned a sequel. One I might actually be tempted to see. I don’t think they could have made the film any cruder because then it would have been a different kind of adult movie altogether. If you know what I mean.

I felt the pair had better chemistry than Kunis and Tatum in Jupiter Ascending and to be honest, in comparison to the other films that were nominated for the Razzies, this was a much better effort. Surprised, to say the least.

3/5

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

DOLPHIN TALE 2 REVIEW

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Two stars for the main mammals (the dolphins, that is)

Yep. You read that right. I watched Dolphin Tale 2. (Against my better judgement).

I’ve been feeling for some time that films just haven’t reached the levels that they used to. Going for the easy option. Predictable, lazy, cliched stories with badly written characters that rely heavily on star factor to put bums on seats. No surprises. TV has excelled where cinema has left me disappointed.

HOWEVER, family movies are normally bang on the buck with the little ‘uns (and some parents) being the toughest critics to win over. As I’ve said before, Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks have excelled at making films that have something for everyone.

Unfortunately, not this time round. Now, don’t get me wrong. This is a very watchable and easy going film but memorable? Not so much. I mean some of the Free Willy sequels that inevitably reared their ugly heads had a bit more going on than this. BUT I have found lately that films I write off normally surprise me. This was nowhere near as corny as I expected . . . until the closing moments.

It would help if you like dolphins. Duh, right? The opening sequence in which a dolphin is rescued by the aquarium certainly zipped things along. I didn’t expect to be bombarded with a number of dolphin facts. A few of which I did not know. It was informative without being pretentious. Unlike the Walking with Dinosaurs Movie. It kept things moving along and I found my cynical demeanor cracking a little.

You don’t need to see the first film to know what’s going on. If not for the obvious number tagged on the title, I would have thought nothing less (Tragically, it didn’t make me want to chase up its predecessor).

After all the recent SeaWorld controversy and the harrowing Blackfish documentary, it was only a matter of time that a schmaltzy, rose tinted view was taken. BUT skeptic views on animals captured and raised in captivity aside, at the film’s core is a story about a boy’s relationship with his fish (No, not like that).

This is helped with a likeable lead in Nathan Gamble (The Mist). He delivered a solid performance as Sawyer. Cozi Zuehlsdorff (No, I didn’t lean on the keyboard) was a little irritating to start with but once I got used to her character, she soon grew- became tolerable. She nailed the smiley SeaWorld instructor host with aplomb. The pair worked well together.

The real scene stealers were inevitably the animals. The scenes in which Gamble interacts with Winter the dolphin are well done with a mixture of real, CGI and model sequences. All which work really well. Just right. Not too cartoony for a change. The fact that Winter had a prosthetic tail made things a little bit more interesting.

There were some endearing moments in which Winter has become a mascot for amputees. A little corny but nicely done. A meeting with a war veteran and celebrity surfer Bethany Hamilton hit home.

Another notable scene stealer was a pesky pelican. One that didn’t even belong to the aquarium. Popping up at impromptu moments and delivering the laughs. I was more interested in the subplot involving the pelican assigning himself the role of guardian to a sea turtle. It shouldn’t have worked but it got me.

There is a great supporting cast at the director’s fingertips but not much was really made of them. Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr play their parts as well as they can but they are merely the supporting parents. A shame. I couldn’t take Connick Jr seriously as the father figure. Kris Kristofferson was in a rather subdued role and boy has he aged all of a sudden. I knew he was old but . . .

Morgan Freeman played his role without a care in the world. A legend in my eyes. His limited presence does make an impact when he gets the chance. The whole I have stuff older than you jibes were great to start with. But soon got old really quick. You may have blagged it in Last Vegas, Mr. Freeman. A second time? Shame on you.

The story didn’t have enough going to keep fidgeting bums in seats (and that’s just the adults). I couldn’t help making Free Willy comparisons and realizing that the content was very much a TV movie at best. The constant pressure from the corporate bigwigs in the initial opening was a harsh and all too real commentary.Concern for the animals taking second fiddle to advertising and merchandise deals.

But it all ends so dreadfully corny that I was left flailing my arms about; like the blasted pelican.

There were a couple of twists and turns that I didn’t expect for all my cynicism involving the dolphins. I was surprised by two particular plot points involving the dolphins that did peak my attention (without spoiling) but the main issue with these sort of films is that you know the inevitable outcome even with the threat of the dolphin being relocated.

The subplot of Gamble’s Sawyer’s internship has been done to death, spurring an unnecessary love story between him and Zuehlsdorff’s Hazel.

It is most definitely one for the little ‘uns. An easygoing and nicey nicey film but if you were expecting Free Willy or something a little more, you may left a little disappointed.

2.5/5