*NEW* VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN REVIEW *NEW*

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IT’S A DUD! IT’S A DUD!

Well, that’s what I thought I was going to say.

McAvoy and Radcliffe take on the iconic mad scientist duo to mixed results. BUT with good acting and some decent special effects, it delivered enough fun for me not to care too much.

Told from Igor’s (Daniel Radcliffe) perspective, we see the troubled young assistant’s dark origins, his redemptive friendship with the young medical student Viktor Von Frankenstein (James McAvoy), and become eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein became the man (and the legend) we know today.

Look, this sort of movie was never going to win plaudits BUT if it had the right level of ridiculousness and enough monsters then I’d be one happy bunny. The first hour was actually quite entertaining and reworked the origin story quite well.

Apart from needing a good haircut, Radcliffe played the hunchback perfectly. We follow the poor chap as we watch him being beaten and downtrodden by his circus chums. Daniel Mays (The Bank Job) was completely wasted in his role as the lecherous leader Barnaby. Shame. It zipped along and once Frankenstein made the fold, I was pleasantly entertained.

James McAvoy was superb. Producing more saliva than creatures. Seriously, he got a little too passionate with some of the dialogue. BUT as soon as he made his introduction, he stole the show. His mad enthusiasm, the dry witticisms and crazy theorizing was brilliant. He really carried the piece when things seem to drag (Which unfortunately they did).

The special effects and props were disgusting. A scene involving the real reason behind Igor’s “hump” was enough to put anyone off their dinner. The creatures and animal body parts were fantastic. Their first subject; a spliced chimpanzee was devilishly creepy and created a few problems along the way.

There wasn’t as much gore nor as many monsters as I had hoped. The woes of a 12A certificate but the writers certainly pushed the mark where they could. The CGI was generally eye catching. Apart from the scene (Ironically) involving moving eyes which was just terrible.

The bromance between McAvoy and Radcliffe really made the pair shine. I was happy to watch them bicker, banter and squabble as the experiments become more ambitious. BUT of course, they had to throw a spanner in the works. A spanner in the form of Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown-Findlay.

The dull love subplot between Radcliffe and Brown-Findlay was pretty bland. The pair do their best BUT I wasn’t interested in them and neither was the director it seemed as it was skimmed over very quickly. If anything, it wasn’t needed.

She didn’t really turn Igor against Frankenstein or add any humanity to him. You felt for Igor from the moment you saw him abused by the circus. But then again, it was never going to be that sort of film. BUT it tragically slowed down the pace and I could feel my mind wondering as the lifeless luvvy duvvy stuff played out.

Andrew Scott (Sherlock) delivered a memorable supporting turn as the depressing and macabre Inspector Turpin. A man hell bent on bringing Victor to justice before the world and God. His ramblings did go on a bit BUT his theological sparring with McAvoy spiced things up.

He was definitely more memorable than Freddie Fox’s (The Riot Club) Finnegan. He was too weak and flamboyant to be taken seriously. He certainly personified a spoilt rich kid with more money than sense. BUT a maniacal mastermind? I feared Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) more in his small cameo as Frankenstein’s father.

The slow motion Sherlock Holmes (Downey Jr/Ritchie) style fighting was disorienting and slowed down the action too much. The film lost its momentum after the 60 minute marker BUT finally (and thankfully) found it again at the 90 minute marker for a deliciously dark and violent finale.

If anything, the finale was a little too quick cut and rushed. I’m sure the literary critics will be shaking their heads at this rehashing of a classic BUT it had enough action, creepy creatures and humour to keep things watchable. The effects on the Creature looked so real. He looked like Martin Skrtel on steroids with a few bolts here and there. Any more violent and they could have kissed that 12A rating good bye. Maybe they should have.

Radcliffe and McAvoy were a dream team. The effects were great. They did just enough to wade through the stocky subplots and overlong pace to make it a watchable little creature feature.

3/5 (Just)

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THE WOMAN IN GOLD REVIEW

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The Woman in Gold or was it dark blue? Either way, go see it.

Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.

FINALLY! I’ve managed to hit a run of good films. YES!

Mirren was superb. A perfect leading lady. Ryan Reynolds was also excellent. It was good to see him play a more subdued role. A normal guy fighting against the ruthless and contradictory Austrian legal system (Or the big guy).

I’m used to watching Reynolds play the same old obnoxious fast talking douche bag archetype. It was a breath of fresh air. Some proper acting from a talented actor (I knew he could. Just check out Buried for proof).

My only niggle was that you could tell the guy doesn’t wear glasses. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. If not, my four eyed brethren will understand.

They were a great pairing. I found the pace dipped a little in parts but it still keep me hooked. The set up took a little too much time to get going but I was distracted by the enigmatic duo as we delve into Maria’s past.

The film isn’t just about a painting. I’m no art lover but I wasn’t impressed by the actual art piece for all it’s controversy. BUT the story behind this cultural icon is something else. An icon that was stolen by the Nazis and never returned to the rightful owner.

Through a series of flashbacks and narration by Mirren, we soon discover the true origins of the renowned Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting of Maria’s aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. The flashback sequences were riveting, engaging and upsetting.

The treatment of the Jews was handled delicately. We watch as Jews are forced to clean pavements with acid. Shopkeepers made to close their stores and mark JEW on their doors. The public humiliation by bystanders as their locks are cut off by Nazis.

You soon understand why Maria is so adamant not to go back. A place she vowed never to return. Max Irons (The Riot Club) and Tatiana Maslany were also very good.

It was great to see Maslany getting a meatier role on the big screen after her award winning turn in the HIGHLY recommended sleeper hit TV series Orphan Black. She played young Maria brilliantly.

I couldn’t believe how quick the majority of the Austrian community turned against one another. Giving Maria’s family up without hesitation to the Nazis. A good portion of them had attended her wedding only a few days before.

The pace soon picks up as the film flicks back and forth from the past to the present (Well, 90s). The legalities and clauses appeared a little technical but were soon explained. The only problem was once it was explained, I couldn’t believe the difficulty that the pair had to endure just to get a case together.

Stalling tactics from the conniving Austrian officials as they throw ridiculous loopholes and rolls of red tape. It was never about the money for Maria. It was about doing what was right. For family and remembrance.

Maria was even prepared to let the museum keep the portrait but only if they admitted fault. But the officials couldn’t even do that.

It was intriguing watching Randol’s (Reynolds) transformation; a struggling lawyer who took on a case originally for a quick buck. However, the journey he takes with Maria changes everything. His breakdown after visiting the cemetery and Jewish memorials that commemorated his own ancestors really hit home.

The flashbacks, after a nail biting street chase and tense encounter with border patrol, seemed to end a little abruptly. Obviously, it caught up with the present but it would have been nice to know what happened to Maria’s husband after spending a good chunk of time watching him flee from Austria. A passing comment about him from Maria felt a little flat.

The flashbacks did re-appear in the closing minutes and brought a tear as Maria finally opens about the last conversation she had with her parents. A heartbreaking moment between Maria (Maslany) and her father (Allan Corduner) made sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The supporting cast were good, if a little restricted. Katie Holmes played Randol’s wife well. But her character wasn’t really integral to the story and was very much in the background. The only roles she seems to get these days.

Daniel Bruhl was very good as the news journalist desperate to help Maria and Randol. Providing useful advice on the by-laws and using all the contacts at his disposal. It’s great to see him appearing in more mainstream Hollywood flicks. I’ve been a fan since Goodbye Lenin!

Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) had the easiest role going as Randol’s boss. The only thing that stood out for him was his commendable American accent!

The closing trial scenes were not as dramatic as I expected. I anticipated a grand trial with relentless closing arguments not a formal affair with the verdict riding on three art officials in a convention room. But the end result was still uplifting and the closing credits revealed some facts that surprised me.

Despite my little niggles, I still found The Woman in Gold a brilliantly acted and and engaging biopic that is definitely worth your time.

3.5/5

LOVE, ROSIE REVIEW

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Love the cast. But the film?

The film was actually a lot better than I expected. Certainly better than The Best of Me and that’s down to the chemistry of two very likeable leads in Claflin and Collins.

Yes, yes! I saw a rom com . . . and I liked it. Kind of. It’s the same old schmaltzy guff with the inevitable will-they-won’t-they spiel but at least we had a couple whose dilemmas and choices actually kept my cynicism subdued for a good 90 minutes.

So what’s it all about? Rosie (Lilly Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin) have been best friends since they were 5, so they couldn’t possibly be right for one another . . . or could they? When it comes to love, life and making the right choices, these two are their own worst enemies (Awww . . . Yuck).

The film is initially a flashback skimming through the years as we see our couple keep messing up or being pushed away by a spanner thrown in the works (i.e. getting preggers or falling for someone else).

I was originally going to complain about the continuity which is a little bad as the pair are supposed to be in their 30s. By the end, they still look 18. That was until I heard Beyonce’s Crazy in Love and had to Google it to realise that song was released in 2003?! Made me feel old before the film began and crushed my continuity quips. A little.

The whole “boy friend”/”boyfriend” and “girl friend”/”girlfriend” debate is always an interesting dynamic with plenty of meat to sink your teeth into. Now I haven’t read the novel by Cecelia Ahern so I cannot comment on how loyal the film was to the material. But she wrote P.S. I Love You, which wasn’t a bad film either (What’s wrong with me?).

The school melodrama was all too true for me. The little things made me laugh. The students using MSN messenger to speak to each other in IT lessons was spot on. Mad that something like MSN is already a relic.

Director Christian Ditter has a talented British cast at his fingertips. The beautiful (What? I’m in love) Lilly Collins (Mortal Instruments) gives a sterling performance as Rosie.  She certainly carries the film and proves she can take on a leading role. I expect to see more of her (Hope to. Oi! In an acting sense . . . and other – No!).

It’s strange to see Sam Claflin in a normal role after his demented turn in The Riot Club. He plays the part well and has great chemistry with LC. I actually cared what happened to the couple. They weren’t flat and one dimensional. They were rounded and flawed. Normal people for a change.

It was easygoing and quite funny. Dramatic with the odd heart plucking moment for the easy weepers. There were some jokes that bordered a little on The Inbetweeners territory; i.e. a situation involving a condom took me by surprise. But it just managed to pull it off.

BUT then there were some jokes that fell flat on their backside. Where I laughed at Rosie being caught in bed handcuffed with a copper by her young ‘un, I then shook my head as Rosie takes said child to school with a giant bed railing handcuffed to her wrist. Oh dear.

The same can be said for certain characters. Some excelled where others just failed to stand out. Christian Cooke (Cemetery Junction) played the cocky chump brilliantly. Jaime Winstone (Made in Dagenham) was not as irritating as I thought and to be honest, I would have been happy to see more of her as she worked well with Collins and had a good supporting character.

Tamsin Egerton (St. Trinians), on the other hand; (Beautiful though she may be) I didn’t understand why she was playing the American? She did a good job at the accent. But really? They couldn’t get an American actress? And to be honest, her part was quite unnecessary and quite annoying. Her character had the opportunity to cause more tension and conflict but merely delivered a spicy bit of drama and then withered into the background. A shame.

The same can be said for Suki Waterhouse (Pusher) who played the snobby manipulative model as well as she could. But her character was about as wafer thin as her.

The teen pregnancy drama was dealt with quite sensitively and made for some engaging viewing as Rosie make some serious decisions. There were also some endearing moments to be had, especially between Rosie and her father.

This film certainly surprised me. It’s hardly original and won’t top the classic British rom-coms but it managed to deliver some good drama (Sometimes life has other plans), good laughs and a good cast.

Nothing like a bit of C & C.

3/5 for me

’71 REVIEW

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A bold, visceral debut with another charismatic performance from a rising star.

BUT not without its imperfections.

Firstly, it helps to have some insight into the Troubles of ’71. Now my knowledge is sparse but despite not being alive at the time, that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the conflict that ensued between England and Ireland.

Now writer Gregory Burke and director Yann Demange (Dead Set) leave little explanation throwing you and our protagonist into the heated confusing mess that was the conflict in Belfast. All that is established is a map highlighting the areas to avoid at all costs. The areas seized by the Irish nationalists who were perceived by the British as the enemy.

The confusion is merely one of a number of revelations. So what’s it all about? A young and disoriented British soldier (Jack O’Connell) is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the deadly streets of Belfast in 1971.

We start with a slow opening as O’Connell visits his son while awaiting his next mission. At first, I was a little unsure with O’Connell’s delivery. He seemed to mumble and mope around. But as the scene progressed, O’Connell excelled. I was afraid that O’Connell would be typecast as the cocky hot head after Skins and Starred Up but the character of Gary Cook was a complete change of tempo.

The treatment of the British soldiers as they entered Belfast was harrowing and unsettling. The children swearing and throwing excrement was an unpleasant sight. The women grabbing saucepans and dustbin lids to warn the men of the incoming troops was tense and . . . irritating as hell (What?)

The slow build up as the masses continue to grow around the military vehicles was excruciating. Excruciating in the sense that all you can do is wait for it all to go up in smoke. The suspense brewing more and more as the tension reaches boiling point. As the orders became more and more misconstrued by the inexperienced Lieutenant Armitage (played perfectly by Sam Reid – The Riot Club), you find your loyalties divided.

However, the one who are routing for is Gary as he attempts to evade capture and get home. The chase sequences were intense and frantic. At times, the shaky camerawork was a little unsettling as you couldn’t see who was where.

It’s slow burning, at times tense and suspenseful. But for a 99 minute film, it felt a lot longer. The parts in which Gary is hiding (Several in fact) seemed to hit lulls. Where I was originally engrossed and held in suspense on Gary’s fate, I felt my mind wandering as the ongoing conversations between the nationalists and the Military Reaction Force seemed to run down familiar lines.

Despite being eerily realistic, it was also very predictable with the inevitable backstabbing. A sign of the times in this current day and age with paranoia, suspicions and backroom dealing ever present in politics. One thing that I can commend Burke and Demange for is capturing the dilapidated wasteland of the captured areas in Belfast and providing the opportunity for a talented cast to bring such characters to life.

The Military Reaction Force certainly didn’t portray Britain in the best of lights but with questionable motives and hidden agendas, I wasn’t surprised. Sean Harris (Prometheus) was perfectly cast as the shady Captain Browning. If anyone can play a creepy double crosser, it’s him.

There were surprises along the way with people you wouldn’t expect coming to Gary’s aid. Corey McKinley made a memorable impression as the loyalist kid. His acting was superb and quite comical, lightening the tone. It was great to see a talented cast of British actors and actresses, who have been popping up on the telly, get the opportunity to shine; Paul Anderson (Peaky Blinders), Sam Hazeldine (Resurrection) and Charlie Murphy (Happy Valley).

The final 15 minutes came out of nowhere. Nail-bitingly tense with more ‘shoot em ups and backstabbing than The Departed and the conclusion certainly made for sombre viewing. Burke and Demange were not afraid to hold back the punches in commenting on a political minefield.

A bold, if a little drawn out, screen debut from a promising director and a stellar performance from a rising star.

O’Connell will certainly be one to look out for in the foreseeable future.

3/5

THE RIOT CLUB REVIEW

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Such a riot! Tragically not. Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening, leading to . . .

A mediocre class satire that had so much potential to be so much more.

To be honest, the concept should have stayed as a play. The adaptation fails to carry itself on the big screen. If not for the prolific British cast attached to this, I don’t think it would have been done at all.

The only actor that will survive this poor affair will be Sam Claflin (Love, Rosie) who was deliciously revolting. His character Alistair Ryle was a perfect panto villain. Camp and vile. It is a shame however that he was very much a stereotype. A snobby toff that “hates poor people”. As if we needed to cement the stereotype further with that. I can’t believe that was actually written in the script.

Max Irons (The Host) played the lead as well as he could but he was terribly bland up until the final 20 minutes in which he finally had a little bit of meat from the script to chew on and do a bit of acting. He was able to share some chemistry with Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) but it’s all so predictable.

BUT Irons was always going to finish second to the rest of the cast comprising of young future British prospects; Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet), Ben Schnetzer (Pride) and Sam Reid (Belle).

It does not help that the tone is all over the place. Riding off the Made in Chelsea vibe, the opening act was farcical and terribly OTT as we are given a brief history about the founder of the infamous club, Lord Riot. A genius and a . . . TOTAL LEGEND.

I could feel my hopes for this film fading in an instant. However, the club members did provide enough tomfoolery for a silly but watchable half hour. The initiation sequence had a demented Dead Poets Society feel and I really hoped it was going to keep heading in that direction dealing with the class and society issues within the confines of the school.

The club’s initial introduction and candidate hunt was quite funny. Sam Reid’s overtly flamboyant Hugo chasing after Irons’ Miles for his own intentions. The boozing and sleeping around felt like a mash of Skins meets Made in Chelsea.

However, the tone gets a little bit serious when the club unite to dine. The dinner sequence was a perfect platform to stage a cross-examination of the upper class but it took so long to get going. As tempers rise and more booze and drugs are ingested at the dinner table, things finally begin to bubble up.

There are some tense moments but it’s tough to do a commentary when all the characters are merely stereotypes. It made a change that it wasn’t a piece on hoodies peddling drugs and committing crimes on a council estate but rich spoilt brats poking fun at the working class is just fuel for fire.

I can respect what the writer was trying to say but the characters and the aftermath are exaggerated so theatrically that I can’t take them seriously. I mean at one point the lads are picking at the 10 fowl main course because one bird is missing. Terrible.

They were nothing more than the seven posh dwarves; Dopey, Sleazy, Shouty and Crackhead. The tension soon subsides and leads to complete and utter chaos with relentless destruction (an elongated five minute Extreme Makeover sequence that was beyond overkill) and a predictable twist.

Jessica Brown-Findlay (Downton Abbey) played the waitress as well as she could but it was a wasted role. Anyone could have played her. She merely scowled and had the odd jibe back at the posh plebs.

The alluring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) had the easiest cameo going. Her character was nothing more than a catalyst to fuel the tempers of horny, drug induced toffs in the form of a misled escort.

My quip besides playing on the mainstream red band papers and hyping up stereotypes was that there wasn’t enough story for me. The idea of them discussing their views during a dinner had potential. BUT it’s goes from nothing to everything.

It was too slow, the characters were un-relatable and it ended oh so predictably and lazily with the usual commentary that the rich get away with anything, apparently. Hardly a spoiler. After the dinner incident, I thought there was potential for a suspenseful stand off as the gang begin to give each other up. BUT it’s wrapped up within minutes so flatly and easily. Disappointing.

I predict a riot for people heading towards the door.

2/5

*THROWBACK REVIEW* BELLE

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Pride and Racial Prejudice or Frownton Abbey. A stellar British cast uplifts a syrupy biopic that you’d expect to see on ITV. 12 Years A Slave, this ain’t. It’s certainly watchable and zips along but it doesn’t really make full use of the cast or the subject matter and inevitably leads to the same old predictable schmaltzy finale.

So what’s it all about? Inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). The illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy captain is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and wife (Emily Watson).

Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the colour of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. However, she soon falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son (Sam Reid – The Riot Club) bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

Well, at least gets the ball rolling . . . sort of, kinda.

The beautiful Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Touch) takes the fold and delivers a strong performance. One to watch for the future. Matthew Goode (Stoker/The Good Wife) applies enough charisma to make a memorable impression as Captain Sir John Lindsay, who plucks an orphaned Belle from poverty and much worse. A shame that he is only in the film for five minutes before departing on a long voyage.

To be honest, anyone could have played him. Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey) seems to be typecast of late as the uptight old prune of an aunt but if she delivers the goods, does it matter? To me, just a bit.

Even Tom Felton is playing a Victorian Draco Malfoy, complete with “mudblood” attitude in tow. Don’t get me wrong, he plays the slick toothed snob to perfection. As does James Norton (or Tommy from the highly acclaimed BBC TV series Happy Valley) as Felton’s smug brother and partner in crime.

They are both the weasel-y twins (What?) as they try and weave their way into Belle’s fortune. Miranda Richardson (Blackadder) is also brilliant as their conniving matriarch. Emily Watson plays her part well, even if her character is completely unnecessary.

Merely, a commentator sitting on the side lines. Commentary that is self-explanatory as, to be honest, there is not a lot going on. The beautiful Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold) is making an impression. She plays the dibby cousin Elizabeth well. You do feel for her character as she appears to be used as pawn in a game of rich chess or left lingering in the shadow of the “exotic beauty”.

I appreciate the concept and direction the film took. This is a completely different story to 12 Years A Slave that deals with the issue of race within the aristocracy. The fact that Belle was awarded the stature and position of any rich member of power and is unable to use it, says it all.

However, it all feels a little petty in comparison to the visceral gritty torture that Solomon endured. He was beaten, whipped and hung. Belle was made to eat in a separate room to the rest of the family and was perceived merely as an exhibition piece, an exotic jewel, nothing more.

Tom Wilkinson is fantastic as Lord Mansfield whose position is compromised in between fulfilling the law. The law that does not treat any person of colour with respect or even see them as people.

He works well with Mbatha-Raw which allows for some heartfelt moments. After the initial introduction and set up in an easy going half hour, the film seems to be happy to tend with the mundane gossip of petty rich Victorian folk while the inevitable romance blossoms between Belle and John Davinier (Reid). The awkward exchanges, the subtle glances and turning aways. Check, check. All there.

It all feels like by the end it is merely ticking the boxes for all the clichés of a period drama. Any chance of making statements are crushed by an inevitable corny love story. The finale is merely a revelatory court case with the verdict relying on Mansfield’s overriding decision.

A decision that is so obvious and unbelievably predictable that all the grandiose speeches mean nothing. I expected so much more.

It’s well-acted, easy going but doesn’t seem to be sure on whether to be a hard-hitting drama or a slow burning love story.

If you’re a period drama fan, then you’ll love this but it brings nothing new to the genre. Weaker episodes of Downton Abbey have done a better job (There’s never been a weak episode of Downton? That’s scandalous!)

If you’re already going in making comparisons and expecting 12 Years A Slave, then . . . watch 12 Years A Slave. Such a shame. Not bad but not great.

2.5/5