*NEW* MIDNIGHT SPECIAL REVIEW *NEW*

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Not that special.

A father (Michael Shannon – Man of Steel) and son (Jaeden Lieberher – St. Vincent) go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers.

Overhyped, drawn out and disappointing. A patchy affair, to say the least.

The opening 30 minutes was everything I expected. It was tense, slow burning and mysterious as we watched Roy (Shannon) and Alton (Lieberher) hiding out in motels. Only travelling at nightfall. Evading capture at any cost. A suspenseful encounter with a state trooper after a late night car collision was nail-biting.

All the questions with none of the answers. Hook, line and sinker! Joel Edgerton (Warrior) worked well with Shannon as his friend and partner in crime. Lieberher excelled yet again (after a stellar turn in St. Vincent) as Alton. He felt like a cross between ET and D.A.R.Y.L. If said aliens were brainwashed by a religious cult.

I did expect more from Shannon’s performance. He didn’t impress as much as I hoped. Was a leading role a stretch too far after so many iconic supporting roles (Man of Steel/Boardwalk Empire)? He just wasn’t charismatic enough. I wanted to care for the pair. BUT as the film drudged along, my patience was soon tested.

Thankfully Jeff Nichols didn’t explore too much of Sam Shepard’s (Mud) crazy ranch cult. I was happy NOT to be stuck with that dreary subplot. It felt like a pale imitation of Big Love (A show I would highly recommend). The perception that Alton was a gift from God was different BUT it didn’t really go anywhere.

Kirsten Dunst (Fargo) was wasted in her role. Her character was so weak and one dimensional. There was NO connection or chemistry between her and Shannon (or their characters) and by the time the frenetic finale came to a close, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

NOT even Kylo Ren could save the day. Adam Driver’s (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) initial introduction was annoying and dull. His communication babble and co-ordinate guff put me into a mini-coma.

It probably didn’t help that he looked like Matt from the hilarious Saturday Night Live Star Wars Undercover Boss skit (Check it out – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaOSCASqLsE). However, Driver’s nerdy shtick soon won me over and was a much needed boost in this increasingly drawn out yarn.

The mystery throughout the first half of the film was the only thing keeping me going. The fact we didn’t know why Alton was special. Why did he have to leave? Who was coming for him? Did he even have powers? Was it a hoax? Mere pandemonium from a bunch of deluded zealots?

All we knew was that he had to wear goggles during the day and stay out of the sunlight. BUT the second half of this sci-fi snooze-fest threw that out of the window with Alton blazing light out of his eyes like Cyclops from X-Men. Pulling satellites out of the sky and babbling in radio frequencies.

Don’t get me wrong, when it (finally) kicked off, there were moments to be had. The special effects were brilliantly executed and the chase sequences soon stopped me fidgeting in my seat.

BUT I think it would have worked much better if Nichols had played out whether Alton was an alien or not up to the very end. The sci-fi stuff was revealed far too early. Killing a lot of the tension and suspense for me.

I loved the Close Encounters of Third Kind vibe to the piece BUT it was far too patchy. There were only so many sweeping shots from Adam Stone’s beautiful cinematography and brooding scores (from regular Nichols stalwart David Wingo) to keep my interest.

The finale was frantic and baffling BUT ultimately by the closing credits, predictable and disappointing. A bizarre set design, that was supposed to be breathtaking and captivating, looked like something from Tomorrowland.

Nichols left it on a strange climax with more questions. I could see what he was trying to do BUT by the end I really didn’t care. For all the mystery and tension, it couldn’t hide what was a rather weak and tame alien road movie that (despite all the promise) lacked in depth or originality.

It was watchable BUT far too patchy and overhyped. Personally, Mud is still my favourite out of Nichols’ works.

2.5/5

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THE LONGEST RIDE REVIEW

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It really was the longest ride.

Easygoing enough but memorable? Another Nicholas Sparks adaptation hits the silver screen and it’s everything you could expect.

Schmaltzy, cliched, predictable and far too bloomin’ long!

After an automobile crash, the lives of a young couple intertwine with a much older man (Alan Alda), as he reflects back on a past love.

As you might not have gathered, these sort of films are not my cup of tea. They will always be corny and cringe-inducing BUT I’m happy to keep my thoughts to myself if the characters are interesting enough. Or the story.

Okay, the characters were not that interesting. Or the story. BUT the cast played their parts very well.

Scott Eastwood (Yes, the son of the legend of all legends Clint Eastwood) will soon be in the scopes of young teen girls everywhere. And for the lads . . . Britt Robertson.

I’m kidding. I was happy to see Robertson take on a leading role. She even managed NOT to annoy the hell out of me. Her turn in Tomorrowland left me anxious. I didn’t think she would be strong enough. BUT she excelled in this. All aided by some cracking chemistry with Eastwood.

I cannot believe how much he looks like his old man in his hey day. Crazy.

Robertson and Eastwood did their best with the ambitious career-minded college girl meets rugged daredevil rodeo cowboy love story. It really is as predictable as you could imagine. Not to say there weren’t moments to be enjoyed. When the leads were allowed to break free from the bland rom drom checklist, they were brilliant.

BUT their romance was always going to play second fiddle to the other (and slightly more interesting) love story of Ira and Ruth. A car crash and one befuddled (and incredibly old) Alan Alda later and we are thrust back to the 1940s.

Alan Alda (M*A*S*H) was brilliant. Bringing a much needed sincerity to the miserable pensioner Ira. A man who lost his love. It isn’t long before a slow burning but charming journey is set. Robertson begins to read all the letters that Ira wrote to his wife over the years.

Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) and Oona Chaplin (Game of Thrones) were fantastic together. Chaplin played the vibrant and passionate Ruth to perfection. The woman that would change the life of a shy store clerk for the rest of his life. Aww. Yuck.

Their story was hardly groundbreaking but we see their initial introduction and their blossoming romance. We laugh at their highs and get a little teary eyed at their lows (If you’re into that sort of thing). The pair do endure some struggles along the way which made for some interesting moments.

BUT it never really hit the heights I expected nor was it as dramatic as I hoped BUT the will-they-won’t-they? with Eastwood and Robertson soon became nothing but filler by comparison.

Their relationship ironically hits little snags alongside the retelling of Ira and Ruth’s. A perfect example being when Eastwood’s cowboy is invited to an art gallery. He soon makes his views known with the pretentious admirers. One of them being none other than Jeanie from ER. Ol’ Gloria Reuben. Yes, I’m a ER fan. Make of that what you will.

There wasn’t a bad supporting cast. The soon to be Supergirl Melissa Benoist managed to make a memorable turn as Robertson’s crazy college room mate. BUT more could have been made with Lolita Davidovich as Eastwood’s mother. She seemed too passive and laid back but with a son so stubborn, passivity seems to be the only route.

The problem with these sort of films is that no matter what hardship the couple endures, the result is always the same. I’m not for cynical and miserable endings but to do they have to be so sugary sweet?

The closing minutes were unbelievably corny BUT nicely done. A little side story from the ailing Ira came full circle and made a nice surprise. I will stay as cryptic as possible with that one.

I haven’t read the book and this . . . doesn’t make me want to BUT if you love romantic dramas and easygoing stories than I can think of worse ways to kill a couple of hours.

But unlike the adorable romance of Ira and Ruth, I don’t think this film will stand the tests of time. The cast do their best and have cracking chemistry but we’ve seen it all before.

2.5/5

TOMORROWLAND – A WORLD BEYOND REVIEW

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To-bore-o-land?

Bound by a shared destiny, a teen (Britt Robertson) bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor (George Clooney) embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.

Whaaaattt? Yeah, it’s a little dense. The Cloonster and Disney team up. To mixed results. At its best, an exhilarating action packed thrill ride. At its worst, a meandering, overlong piece that gets too bogged down with the timey wimey stuff.

Brought to you by the director of The Incredibles and one of the writers of LOST. For quite a few of you that might trigger mixed reactions. Brad Bird certainly knows how to deliver an action set piece. BUT Lindelof? He knows how to make a story so complex. Unnecessarily most of the time.

As soon as the film started with Clooney and Robertson’s characters bickering over how they should tell the story, I could feel my excitement dropping. The squabbling went on too long and wasn’t even that funny. Not a great opener.

BUT once the pair got over their storytelling techniques and the flashbacks began, I was strapped in. The complex premise slowly set up. Easygoing, charming and oh so frantic. Typical Brad Bird. We look back into Clooney’s past and see his younger counterpart attending the World Fair and getting introduced to the mysterious Tomorrowland.

Look, I know it’s a Disney film but how much merchandise and promotion did they want to flog in this? Seriously, it was hilarious. I won’t spoil anything. It is a small world after all 😉 Although nice try, Mr Bird. Keep a watchful eye on some sneaky Incredibles and Iron Giant memorabilia.

The special effects were outstanding. A visual feast for the eyes. Disney missed out on a trick by not letting this feature in 3D. There were moments where I actually flinched. Rockets and jet packs flying at you from the screen.

Raffey Cassidy delivered a sterling turn as Athena. The one who sets Clooney and Robertson on their destined paths. With an already impressive filmography; Snow White and the Huntsman, Dark Shadows and Mr Selfridge, she will be one to watch for the future.

It’s always tough for a child actor to make the right impression. Especially when their character is crucial to the story. If they don’t win you over, it’s hard to care what happens. Her delivery may have been a little shaky to start but it was still a good performance.

It took a good 45 minutes before Clooney was really introduced into the mix. Confidence in a young cast. Robertson didn’t do a bad job. I just found her character a little irritating. Her OTT optimistic attitude was a little too sugary sweet for my liking.

Clooney certainly got things going. He has proven before that he is up for a laugh and goes along with the ridiculousness without question. He plays the cliched bitter old man well.

The action set pieces were superb. Picking up the pace when things seemed to lull. The introduction of the robo-cops felt like something out of Terminator 2. No! Not that Robocop. The eerily white teethed Matthew MacCaull certainly added a creepy vibe to the timey teen pic. Their high tech gadgetry was crazy. Disintegrating people into matter without a second thought.

I wondered why this film was given a 12A certificate until half way through. The violence may have been OTT and the guards are robots BUT I didn’t expect to see Robertson bludgeoning one to death. Smashing his head in repeatedly for a good 30 seconds. Probably not suitable viewing for the little ‘uns.

This has teen viewing stamped all over it. A little bit violent and a little bit more going on but nowhere near as demented, apocalyptic and dark as it could have been. BUT come on, it’s Disney.

The closing 30 minutes seemed to meander off and went out with a whimper NOT a bang. After all the mystery and mad inter dimensional mumbo jumbo and a crazy shuttle launch sequence involving the Eiffel Tower, the payoff just wasn’t as complicated as it made out nor as rewarding. If anything it was quite simple and really predictable. I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case.

It was certainly watchable and for the majority of the screen time, I was engrossed. Hell, I got to see the ultimate stand off between two of the most iconic TV docs. ER’s Doug Ross vs. Gregory House. Hugh Laurie was good as Nix but his character was a bit nothingy and felt more like a panto villain. Dispensing his guards and then just waiting. Or scowling.

I won’t say too much about the plot but I’m glad that Lindelof and Bird got the balance right with Athena and Clooney’s relationship. Something that could have come off awkward and a little weird if delivered the wrong way.

Lindelof really needs to work on his endings. And no! That is NOT a angry swipe from a LOST fan. It isn’t! I swear. Just look at Prometheus. For all the timey wimey mystery and crazy theories, I was hoping for something a little more spectacular.

Also a quick question for Mr Bird. Was Judy Greer’s part cut? A talented actress reduced to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo? A waste of a talented supporting actress.

It’s frantic, action packed, riveting but also on far too long. I respect Disney for at least trying to do something original instead of another mindless remake or rehash.

It’s just a shame that the film got too caught up in the science stuff that it lost the fun and charm that had it kept it going.

Not bad but a little disappointing. Still not the worst way to kill two hours.

3/5