*NEW* GOLD REVIEW *NEW*

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McMumbler does just enough to make this mediocre biopic alright, alright, alright.

Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), a prospector desperate for a lucky break, teams up with a similarly eager geologist (Edgar Ramirez) and sets off on a journey to find gold in the uncharted jungle of Indonesia.

First thing’s first . . .

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Right, now I’ve got that out of my system. I can review this properly.

I was actually looking forward to this. And . . .

The opening 20 minutes was painfully slow, disappointing and uninteresting as Wells scraped the bottom of the barrel.

An incredibly dull encounter with his father (A waste of Craig T Nelson) did nothing to get things going. All the metaphors in the world couldn’t liven that scene up.

A flawed protagonist fallen from grace. His family legacy gone; a respected and lucrative prospecting firm now nothing more than a made up office in a dingy bar for the remaining loyal employees. A laughing stock.

I actually struggled to understand McConaughey in the first act. It was True Detective all over again. I should have seen the Audio Described version.

His receding hair line and beer belly won’t win the ladies over. Seriously, he looked like Les Grossman from Tropic Thunder.

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I know we were supposed to see a man at his wit’s end BUT the whole “gold calling him in a dream” spiel was a little hokey. An act of desperation. One last roll of the dice. Pawning his own wife’s watch for a plane ticket to Indonesia.

Break or bust. And the rest . . . was thankfully a little bit more enjoyable.

Whether it was a case of sitting too close to the big screen, I found Robert Elswit’s grainy cinematography naff to look at.

It was great to see Martinez finally get a meatier role after popping up in minute parts (Joy, The Girl on the Train and *shudder* that Point Break remake).

He worked well with McConaughey and they made a convincing duo.

The hard grafting and turmoil in the jungle was the much needed spark as Wells bartered and borrowed every penny to get that payload. Hell, the guy even battled malaria for those precious minerals.

At one point, things were getting desperate that Acosta (Ramirez) offered clean water to the workforce in exchange for payment.

The middle act was the saving grace as the pair made the biggest score of a lifetime. You felt for Wells as everything finally fell into place BUT it wasn’t long before our good old friend Greed popped its ugly head.

You had to laugh at all the big fish trying to get a piece of the action and brown nosing the chap after years of snubbing and dismissing his reputation.

Corey Stoll (The Strain) was good as the shifty Wall Street backstabber trying to push Wells out of his cut.

I’ll know some will argue BUT once McConaughey was let loose; he proved once again why he deserved that little golden statue on his mantelpiece.

His charisma and enthusiasm kept things going as the pace stumbled along. I’m not saying his performance was perfect BUT I don’t think I would have been interested at all.

It was a little too stop-start for my liking. The Hangover style shenanigans with an Indonesian playboy millionaire felt like it was in the wrong movie. The CGI’d tiger was a little much (“I’m touching a tiger!” Really?).

Bryce Dallas Howard played the supportive wife well BUT anyone could have played her. Their relationship was far too cliched and bland. A shame, really.

Every time we went back to their melodrama, it disrupted what little momentum it had.

The alluring Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones) could have played a better femme fatale BUT Wells succumbed to her advances far too easily.

However as more people tried to get a piece of the action and Well’s ego grew that much bigger, trouble wasn’t far behind.

The murky Wall Street backdrop swallowing our hero into the abyss. The film flicked back and forth as Wells came under heavy scrutiny with his own story falling apart. Did that conversation happen? Did they even find gold?

What has Toby Kebbell got to do to get a decent movie role these days? He was completely wasted as a generic FBI agent. Woeful.

The script could have been so much better. Some of the lines McMumbler churned out just didn’t have the dramatic impact that it should have.

The final 30 minutes redeemed what was a drawn out and patchy affair.

It was intriguing, engaging and everything I expected from the rest of the film. I was actually impressed with the surprisingly ambiguous ending. I was left smiling like our bewildered protagonist.

BUT would I rush to see it again?

Meh. It was alright, alright, alright BUT nothing more.

2.5/5

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*NEW* A STREET CAT NAMED BOB REVIEW *NEW*

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An easygoing feel good flick with stellar turns from the two leads.

Based on the international best selling book. The true story of how James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), a busker and recovering drug addict, had his life transformed when he met a stray ginger cat (Bob).

Ironically, despite that synopsis, I didn’t realise until the opening credits that this was based on a true story. The grim opening sequence gave a hard look into life on the streets with Bowen busking for his next meal (or his next fix).

We watched him sleep rough on a sheet of cardboard in the pouring rain. Rummaging through skips and bins for scraps while fighting back the withdrawal from his drug addiction.

There was even a cringe inducing scene in which the poor chap literally sang for his dinner in a cafe. Just because he was 12p short.

Luke Treadaway is an underrated actor. I enjoyed his turn in Fortitude. It was good to see him get a leading role. He played the part well. He hadn’t got a bad voice either. A cross between Frank Turner and Mumford & Sons.

BUT there wasn’t as much singing as I thought. I expected something a little more in the lines of Once. However, Satellite Moments (Light Up The Sky) was a catchy tune and stand out track.

Director Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies) and writers Tim John and Maria Nation got the right balance. In all fairness, if it wasn’t for the overdose sequence, this could have passed as a PG. It wasn’t graphic or violent BUT still hit home.

Darren Evans (My Mad Fat Diary) was quite good as Baz. The relentless junkie desperate for another fix. It was a surprisingly dark opener as Bowen overdosed in a stolen car.

However, our troubled hero gets a second chance in the form of a ginger mog.

There wasn’t enough of Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey) as Val. The social worker taking a big gamble on the stumbling drug addict. Refusing to accept Bowen’s excuses BUT desperate to see him make the program.

The film delved into the housing benefits scheme and provided a better insight into the workings behind the Big Issue sellers. I didn’t realise the rules and the various territories. Eye opening.

It was a little cheesy once Bob was thrown into the mix BUT they made an entertaining pair as they both got into all sorts of scraps.

The POV perspectives from Bob did get a little silly. It may have lightened up the serious tone of James’ rehabilitation BUT we didn’t need to see everything James was showing Bob. A friendly visit from a mouse delivered a fitting nod to Tom and Jerry.

The introduction of Bob also introduced aspects of James’ life that he thought were done. Most notably in a blossoming romance with the ditsy super vegan Betty (Ruta Gedmintas).

It was a bit of a change from slaying vampires in The Strain for Gedmintas. She was very good as the enthusiastic veggie. Desperate to help all creatures. Volunteering at a local vet despite being allergic to animals. The pair had great chemistry.

I just wish there was more exploration of James’ relationship with his father (Anthony Head – Buffy the Vampire Slayer). You felt sorry for James as he tried to keep clean and build bridges much to his step mother’s disapproval.

BUT of course, the road to recovery is never easy. This had more of a TV movie feel to the piece BUT it had just enough heart and charm to stand on its own two feet (or paws). Especially after some of the entries hitting the Xmas schedules (Say no more).

It wasn’t quite as hard hitting as I had expected. By all means, it was still very watchable with some endearing moments as we went through the highs and lows BUT if you were expecting Inside Llewyn Davis meets Trainspotting, you might be left disappointed.

Ruth Sheen (Another Year) was completely wasted in her role as Elsie, the friendly passer by who becomes a fan of Bob.

I still can’t believe this was a true story. It was a charming little film that left a nice message and a cheesy smile (Including a passing cameo from Bowen himself).

If that sounds like your cup of tea, check it out.

3/5

*NEW* CRIMSON PEAK REVIEW *NEW*

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A return to form (of sorts) from the master of horror.

In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author (Mia Wasikowska) is torn between love for her childhood friend (Charlie Hunnam) and the temptation of a mysterious outsider (Tom Hiddleston). Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds and remembers.

As soon as the blood soaked Universal logo flooded the screen, escorted with the creepy children’s choir singing, I was transfixed. A wonderfully Gothic opening ticked all the boxes for me. Suspenseful, menacing and eerily beautiful as a young Edith (Wasikowska – Stoker) receives a spooky warning from her dead mother. The effects were fantastic.

The first act was slow burning BUT watchable as we flash forward to a now twenty something Edith striving to make a career as a writer. Dan Laustsen’s cinematography was stunning to look at. It really captured the epic and lavish set designs. The Pride and Prejudice melodrama with Edith trying to avoid marriage was a little cliched and slackened the pace BUT it was entertaining enough.

Charlie Hunnam’s Dr McMichael (Sons of Anarchy) was weak. I’m sure his bashful crime enthusiast was supposed to make the charismatic Sharpe look more appealing. BUT his character didn’t have to be such a drip. His Sherlock inspired ramblings didn’t get things going either.

As soon as the illustrious Thomas Sharpe made his introduction, my interest was properly Peak-ed. Tom Hiddleston (Only Lovers Left Alive) played the mysterious count with aplomb. Charming his way straight into Edith’s heart. The whirlwind romance and shotgun wedding was a little rushed. BUT luckily there was always a bigger plan afoot.

And once Sharpe’s strange sister (played by the ever talented Jessica Chastain – Mama) was brought into the mix, I was in for a suspenseful middle act. The whispering, the glances, Chastain’s cold demeanour. Once her muddled English accent was tuned, she was brilliant. She worked well with Hiddleston and the pair made a notorious duo.

It was everything I expected from the moment Edith stepped foot in Alderdale Hall. A wonderfully Gothic setting. A dilapidated manor with a haunting presence complete with rotten mould, decay and dead bugs. It wasn’t long (Thankfully) before things went bump in the night. It was hypnotic viewing. The mystery behind the Sharpes and the house kept me intrigued. The long Shining-esque hallways, the cold dark passages, the scuttling crimson soaked skeletons. Creepy. Brilliant.

BUT for all the mystery and suspense, I was left wanting. After all that build up and Del Toro toying with us, the big reveal was a little disappointing and predictable. Tragically, the final minutes were also a little laughable with Edith squealing and flailing around the ‘Crimson Peak’ estate. A shame considering the picturesque winter setting. The snow bludgeoned with crimson clay. Or was it?

The supernatural element was the redeeming feature as the ghosts desperately try to relay messages to Edith. The unearthing of the puzzle was fun enough as we tried to suss out Sharpe’s intentions. A little twist about the Sharpes was certainly different BUT it only created more holes in the already wafer thin plot. It was never really explained properly. A shame after all that promise.

This is a vast improvement from Del Toro and a return to form (of sorts) after the monstrosity that was Pacific Rim and the Fringe inspired vampire TV series The Strain. Crimson Peak was a wonderfully shot old fashioned Victorian horror story. The leading cast were superb, the cinematography was to die for.

BUT the pace meandered along and the end result just didn’t quite deliver a satisfying enough climax after all that promise. Watchable though.

3/5

THE GOOD LIE REVIEW

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A good film.

A group of Sudanese refugees are given the chance to resettle in Kansas City, Missouri, where their encounter with an employment agency counsellor (Reese Witherspoon) forever changes their lives.

A wonderful little film that is certainly worth your attention. I originally watched this on a flight to America. I had no idea what it was about. Only that it featured Reese Witherspoon. I never expected to be rewarded with such an endearing and heart breaking story.

The opening half hour was riveting. It grabbed me from the get go. We watch in horror as a group of Sudanese children have their peaceful, tranquil village destroyed by rebel forces during the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1983.

Homes burned down and families massacred within a matter of minutes. It certainly made for sombre viewing as the children are forced to flee and attempt the walk to Kenya. Truly moving and tense as the children strive to survive the heat, the rebel forces and each other.

One child Theo (Femi Oguns) makes the ultimate sacrifice by offering himself as a recruit to the rebels while his siblings hide in a field. I only mention this little detail because it becomes part of an ongoing search for Mamere (Arnold Oceng – Adulthood).

Mamere and three other siblings- Jeremiah (Ger Duany), Paul (Emmanuel Jal), and Abital (Kuoth Wiel) manage to reach safety in an Ethiopian refugee camp. They are forever known as The Lost Children. The film then skips forward to the early 2000s as the group are chosen to go to the United States.

Issues with social services soon throws a spanner in the works as the siblings are separated; the three men are sent to Kansas City while Abital is placed in Boston. The rest of the film follows the men as they struggle to adapt to their new lives in a different culture. As well as battling exposure to drugs and dangerous animals.

As soon as the three men meet their employment agency counsellor Carrie Davis, things take a lighter turn.

Reese Witherspoon (Wild) and the lads worked really well together. Their innocence and naivety may have been a little cliched. Come on, I’ve seen Cool Runnings and Million Dollar Arm but it still made for highly watchable viewing. The Lost Children still very much at heart as they try to adapt to television, drive-thrus and supermarkets.

Carrie’s stubbornness and initial reluctance to help may have been old hat but their relationship was still an endearing one. Witherspoon was very much in the background of this flick. Merely using her star profile to get some attention to this engaging story.

I don’t think people would even have given it a look in. A shame considering how poor films have been lately that this film only got a limited release.

The job scenarios made for interesting viewing. Mamere continues to appeal for Abital’s move as well as search for his lost brother. Jeremiah’s naivety and generosity inevitably causes issues with his job at the supermarket.

His confrontation with a manager after giving away expired food to the homeless really highlighted the ugly corporate greediness that the Lost Children have never seen before. All the man wanted to do was work with the church.

Paul earns a job at a factory after his natural talent for building things. However, it isn’t long before he falls into the wrong crowd and is introduced to drugs.

The pace did dip in parts and was a little slow burning but it still made for dramatic and uplifting viewing as the film drew to a close. Just when I started to feel a little fidgety, an interesting development involving Theo led to a suspenseful border patrol encounter as Mamere tries to bring him home.

I didn’t realise how the aftermath of 9/11 would make such an impact on the immigration laws. However after such a dramatic and tense scene. The film just ends. And quite abruptly. With just a few credits explaining what happened next.

I was a little disappointed. It would have been nice to see those little credit bits. Just to round off what had been an intriguing film.

Corey Stoll (The Strain) and Witherspoon’s meagre subplot suggested that something was going on between them but it never really went anywhere. Nor was it brought up for that matter. (Thinking back to it). It seemed like a desperate attempt to add a bit of depth to Witherspoon’s already rounded character. A bit sloppy.

The cast were fantastic. It made a change to see new or virtually unknown actors taking the meatier roles. An interesting fact that I only just discovered. Duany, Jal and Wiel were all children that survived the Second Sudanese Civil War.

God knows what it must have felt like to go through that experience again. Say what you will about whether they should have for a movie.

BUT despite it’s little flaws, I was pleasantly surprised and would recommend this to anyone who wants an endearing uplifting journey of one family’s struggle.

3.5/5